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Hills & Heights

Longtime Kickers Coach Leigh Cowlishaw Steps Down

The longest tenured coach in the USL, Cowlishaw also a member of the USL Hall of Fame and was 2013 USL Coach of the Year.




After 19 years as Richmond Kickers head coach Leigh Cowlishaw is throwing in the towel. Effective immediately Cowlishaw will step away from his coaching duties and focus full-time on his role as Director of Soccer. He has held both positions since 2010.

The RTD article on the news attempts to make it clear that the change is not related to the Kickers recent poor form on the field.

Cowlishaw has registered 276 career wins and league titles in 2006 and 2009. His move away from coaching is sudden, but he and Ukrop made it clear that the departure had nothing to do with the Kickers’ downturn in form during the past two seasons (a 12-24-10 record).

“There’s no conspiracy theory. It was completely my decision,” Cowlishaw said. “Clearly the results haven’t been fantastic over the last two seasons, but at this time, it wasn’t based on performance or results.”

Richmond Kickers Announcement:

The Richmond Kickers announced today that head coach, Leigh Cowlishaw, has stepped down from his coaching role after 19 seasons at the helm.  The longest tenured coach in the USL, Cowlishaw coached his 560th and final match on June 23, 2018 with a 1-1 draw against the Charlotte Independence at City Stadium and reached his 276th win as head coach with a 2-0 victory over long-time rivals Charleston Battery two weeks prior. Cowlishaw will remain an integral member of the Kickers staff, shifting his full-time focus towards his role as Director of Soccer.

“I am sincerely grateful to the Richmond Kickers Board of Directors for affording me the opportunity to step away from my coaching duties and focus solely on my Director of Soccer position,” commented Cowlishaw.  “In recent years, the Kickers have experienced unprecedented growth and it has been my desire for some time to shift my attention to areas where I can have the biggest impact on the organization. I am looking forward to new challenges as we continue to strive to make the Kickers the number one sports experience in Richmond.”

Having previously joined the Kickers as a player during the club’s inaugural season in 1993, Cowlishaw assumed the role of head coach in 2000. He has amassed an overall record of 276 wins,156 losses,128 draws, leading the Kickers to 13 consecutive playoff berths (2004-2016).  Under his guidance, the Kickers have qualified for postseason play 15 times, reaching the title match in 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010, while earning the Regular Season Championship title on four occasions (2001, 2006, 2007 and 2013) and claiming the league crown twice (2006 and 2009).

“Leigh has been a wonderful ambassador for our club both on the field and in the community,” added Rob Ukrop, Richmond Kickers President, Board of Directors.  “Since 1993, his vision and leadership have helped shape the Richmond Kickers into the model for soccer in the United States.  Leigh has had an incredible run as our First Team coach, and we look forward to honoring him later this season where our amazing fans can recognize Leigh’s coaching achievements.”

Having also achieved significant success in the U.S. Open Cup, he won the tournament title as a player in 1995 and has since led the team to four quarterfinal appearances (2001, 2004, 2007, 2011) and a remarkable semifinal finish in 2011, ousting five Major League Soccer teams along the way.  A member of the USL Hall of Fame and 2013 USL Coach of the Year, Cowlishaw’s success on the field is matched by numerous awards off the field, helping to guide the club to five USL Organization of the Year awards (1995, 2000, 2006, 2007, 2009).

As Director of Soccer, Cowlishaw is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of the club while managing the technical staff, overseeing branding and marketing initiatives and delegating responsibilities in a continuously evolving sport marketplace.  He will continue to provide leadership throughout all levels of the Richmond Kickers 8,000-member youth soccer club, while serving on the Richmond United Executive Committee.

A replacement coach is scheduled to be announced later today (Wednesday).

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.