Days after announcing the departure of two-year head coach David Lindholm due to professional obligations, Kingston Stockade FC this week announced a name familiar to fans of the franchise as his replacement: The Jamal Lis-Simmons era is officially under way.
Three-year team captain and defensive stalwart Lis-Simmons is no stranger to coaching, having been at the helm of SUNY Ulster men’s soccer team since 2016. He was an assistant coach at SUNY New Paltz under Gene Ventriglia from 2012-15, and compiled a 40-14-1 record as the boys varsity head coach at his alma mater Highland High School from 2004-06.
But Lis-Simmons has served as an unofficial on-field coach for Stockade from the very beginning, directing the defense and inspiring grit and dedication from teammates through word and deed since the team’s inaugural season in 2016. They’re qualities Club Chairman Dennis Crowley said Stockade officials saw from the very beginning.
“The first time we met Jamal was at the very first tryout that we ever held,” Crowley said. “You could just tell that he brought people together and held them together. We had a conversation at the time and said, ‘That’s our captain. I wonder if he’ll coach for us some time.’ It might have happened sooner than we expected, but we are honored to have Jamal. … I think he’s going to do a great job. I expect great things and we’re looking forward to a great season.”
Lis-Simmons is the third head coach in club history, preceded by Lindholm, who held the post for the last two seasons, and Hall-of-Fame coach George Vizvary, who was Stockade’s coach in its first season.
Kingston announced last week that Lindholm, who has been the associate athletic director at Bard College since April 2017, was stepping down as coach, but would likely stay with the club in an advisory role. In 2017, Lindholm’s first season with Stockade, the club went 7-4-1 overall, winning the Atlantic White Conference of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL), helping the team to a 2-1 victory over Boston City FC in the conference finals on July 15 of that year, and ensuring Kingston earned its first-ever trip to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. In 2018 the club dropped to a 3-5-2 overall record, though their season included highlights like a 5-1 home win over Boston and a thrilling come-from-behind 4-4 tie against the NPSL’s defending champs, Elm City Express.
“He’ll be helping in the front office,” said Crowley. “And I expect he and Jamal will be close, but I don’t expect David will be active as a coach.”
Crowley said Vizvary and Lindholm created a culture of winning that’s appealing to prospective players, who Lis-Simmons will begin recruiting almost immediately along with his soon-to-be-named coaching staff. He’ll also have the help of Dan Hoffay, who last week took on the newly created job of technical director after serving in a range of roles since the team’s inception.
Though he played significantly fewer minutes in 2018 than he had in the previous two seasons, there were moments where Lis-Simmons looked like he could run forever. But barring a change of heart, the new Stockade coach says he’s ready to hang up his boots.
“I’ve just been so grateful to be a part of this club from the very beginning, and I knew I only had so many years left to be able to keep up with all these young guys,” Lis-Simmons said. “Knowing that I wanted to be involved with this club going into the future I was hopeful that this opportunity might present itself. The fact that it’s here now is just really exciting … it felt like a natural transition at this point.”
For fans of the franchise, no player best exemplified the heart and soul of Stockade FC like Lis-Simmons, who hopes how he carried himself on the pitch will serve him every bit as well on the sidelines.
“I feel like I’ve been able to have a good relationship with the coaching staff and also the players, and I’m definitely hoping that helps this be a smooth transition for sure,” Lis-Simmons said. “This club has done some amazing things in a short period of time. I’ve been honored since day one to be a part of this program. I’m from the Hudson Valley. I’ve been around here my whole life. To see what this team has done and the potential for the future is really exciting. I feel blessed with this opportunity, and I’m just looking to make the most of it.”
How Lis-Simmons injects his own coaching style into the mix remains to be seen. “I just want to continue moving this team in the right direction,” he said. “Every coach has a bit of their own philosophy and is going to be slightly different from other coaches. But the message and the goal of this team doesn’t change. We want to continue to offer a platform for local talent to be able to be seen and to be a unifying force within our community. We just want to keep it rolling.”