Former LI Coach Now Leading Top African Pro Team

Kenichi YatsuhashiA former Long Island Junior Soccer League coach is now plying his trade halfway around the world in Africa as the boss of Hearts of Oak in the Ghana Premier League.

Kenichi Yatsuhashi now oversees a team with an impressive history that includes 20 Ghana league titles, 10 Ghana FA Cup titles and the CAF Champions League title as Africa’s best team in 2000. However, Hearts of Oak has failed to win any trophies since 2009.

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“It’s crazy from an American perspective to say the least, but that is why you go abroad, to broaden your horizon,” said Yatsuhashi, who currently has a two year contract with Hearts of Oak. ”That is how it is in Ghana, so I am enjoying all support and criticisms.”

As a youth coach in Long Island on the New York area, he directed the Elmont Ravens girls team in Long Island Junior, the Brooklyn Patriots boys team in the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League (CJSL) and the Gotham Girls Chargers of the Eastern New York Premier League (ENYPL). He also was the goalkeeper coach in Eastern New York’s Olympic Development Program (ODP). He served as an instructor for the Eastern New York coaching education program and also as a referee.

In 1989, Yatsuhashi came to New York to study art, first at ESL, then at the Art Student League on West 57th Street. He went on to study at Barry University in Florida, then returned to Manhattan to conclude his studies at Hunter College. But during this time, he was also studying soccer and earned his US Soccer “A” coaching license and a US Soccer “National Youth” coaching license, as well as various others from CONCACAF, FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation. At one point, he traveled to Qatar to work with several prominent European coaches in a quest to learn.

“Most of my coaching education happened in the United States, but I did not come to the US to be a coach,” Yatsuhashi said. “The national youth coaching courses from Eastern New York and US Soccer were the most influential courses I’ve ever had, in particular what I learned from Nick Zlatar, as if it was not for him, I would not be coaching. I am still using a lot of what I learned in that course—a more player-centered approach—not only for young kids but also for older kids and senior players.”

During his 23 years as a New York City resident, Yatsuhashi coached the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) men’s team to a third-place finish at the 2005 junior college national championships and was honored as Junior College Coach of the Year that same year. He started the BMCC women’s program and finished his long stint coaching in New York with the ASA Community College men’s soccer team four years ago. He received the New York Metro Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NYMISOA) Sportsmanship Award for his good work with the BMCC men in 2005 and the BMCC women in 2009.

(Written with information supplied by Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association.)