Influential soccer Coach Chan MacVeagh inspires student athletes

Chan+Macveagh+poses+for+a+photo.

Chan Macveagh poses for a photo.

“Kick the ball and aim for my head.” Those were the instructions soccer coach Chan MacVeagh gave to one of his players while she practiced her shot. Literally putting his body on the line to help her improve her technique, MacVeagh demonstrated his dedication to the success of young athletes.

MacVeagh has been a coach in Brookline for over 20 years. Throughout his time here, he has touched the lives of many developing players. MacVeagh’s commitment to excellence in coaching and his dedication to his players leave a lasting impact on many young athletes.

Growing up in England, soccer was a massive part of MacVeagh’s childhood.

“I started playing when I was six, because that’s what everybody does. It’s pick-up soccer in the park, and everyone plays. From age six until I finished at university, I played soccer probably every day of my life,” MacVeagh said.

After graduating from Oxford University, MacVeagh moved back to the United States, where interest in soccer was scarce. He went twenty years without being involved with sports and did not re-engage until his daughters began playing when they were six years old. After a decision with his wife for him to sell his company and stop working, MacVeagh got his first paid coaching job as the freshman coach for the high school.

“My wife had started her company in the late ‘90s, and her company was beginning to take off. The company that I started in the early ‘90 had reached a point where I could sell my stake in it,” MacVeagh said. “Because her company was taking off and she was going to be traveling a lot, it would be easier for me to step back from my company and sell my stake in it and become the ‘house husband.’ And so it was 2002 when I started coaching seriously.”

Since 2002, MacVeagh has vastly expanded his coaching positions, ranging from the junior varsity soccer coach to youth soccer, even coaching clubs. Sari Frankl, a current junior and member of the girl’s varsity team, met MacVeagh when she was only six. During their first interaction with each other, Frankl says they created a bond that hasn’t been broken.

“When we first met, Chan told me to put down my ball on the field and he said, ‘okay, beat me.’ I put down the ball and I megged him,” Frankl said, “I think that was one of my dad’s proudest moments for me. From that moment on, Chan and I had a good relationship and a good understanding of each other. Chan’s been very dedicated to Brookline soccer. He’s very dedicated to me.”

MacVeagh has proved this dedication to his players and to the game by holding an annual summer camp, nicknamed “Chan-camp,” that runs every day, five days a week, eight weeks a year. This infamous camp is known for its difficult training and conditioning.

Senior Nilu Dadgar has been playing soccer for four years. She is currently on the roster for the girls varsity team and has known MacVeagh since 2019. Dadgar heard about the summer program from her peers before deciding to partake in it herself .

“He’s definitely one of the harder coaches. He trains you a lot: a lot of running and a lot of strength training. I was so scared to do his ‘Chan camp’ because of all the rumors I heard, like how it can be super hard,” Dadgar said.

Despite the talk about MacVeagh being tough as a coach, his players do not view him as a mean coach.

“I think, especially in soccer, it’s definitely possible to have coaches that are kind of abusive. That’s never really been Chan’s nature. I’ve never really seen him truly yell. He’s enthusiastic and he’s passionate. He’s very dedicated to his players. He just doesn’t have favorites. He is just very fair, very clear and humorous,” Frankl said.

MacVeagh’s coaching technique is not random. He has a clear belief system that he follows while coaching. This strategy consists of three foundational goals that he believes coaches must strive for in order to be successful.

“Coaches must pursue joy, excellence and safety,” MacVeagh said. “If you don’t pursue joy in any sport, but soccer in particular, then the sport is completely unnecessary. Why would you ever do something unless it brought joy. You have to figure out how to make the experience joyful. And then because people are working at this sport, I think you owe the players a chance to be better at it. You owe it to them to let them come every day and do stuff that actually makes them better. And then finally, there’s so many things that just aren’t safe. You owe your team to make the whole training/game environment as safe as you possibly can.”

MacVeagh’s thoughtful approach has not gone unnoticed by the girls he leads. In the summer of 2020, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) had not released whether high school fall sports would be allowed to happen. Despite that, girls were still eager to participate in MacVeagh’s summer program.

Dadgar recalled the difficulty of following COVID-19 regulations and the anxiety about the possibility of not having a soccer season for the high school. However, despite those hurdles, MacVeagh found a way to bring joy back to the game.

“His camp usually involves a lot of strength training with weights, and we couldn’t do that over the summer, so we just scrimmaged every day. And for me that was so fun. All of us were training without even knowing if we’d have a season or not. We were all just playing soccer because we loved it,” Dadgar said.

MacVeagh’s emphasis on love of playing soccer has shaped the way he coaches them. His goal is to help improve the athletes he trains and to help them find joy in what they are doing. This is central to his coaching approach and a major reason why he has left such a positive impact on so many athletes.

“I want to define joy in playing soccer. Not define joy in being part of a team or with your group, but actually playing the game,” MacVeagh said. “What I’m trying to get people to do is find the joy in the feeling of the ball exploding off of their foot or combining to get past the defender or working together to defend the ball and win it back from the other team. I’m trying to get the joy of actual soccer itself.”