TORONTO — Bobby Smyrniotis came to Forge FC earlier this year as a well-known Canadian coaching asset.
The former Sigma FC mastermind made a slow transition from the respected Ontario-based club to the professional game this fall, eventually becoming the seventh head coach announced by a Canadian Premier League founding club.
“It was something that was in the works for a while, so we were well aware of what the transition would look like,” Smyrniotis told CanPL.ca.
“I took some time off at the end of the League1 Ontario season to do some work overseas ahead of the change.”
That work included completing a UEFA “A” coaching license and some cursory scouting ahead of his first season as a professional coach.
For now, his transition is all theory.
“I’m just starting to build a concept of a squad and a philosophy for the club,” Smyrniotis said of his first months on the job.
“It has been trying to put together an overall plan for the season, what the squad would look like and targeting potential players in several markets.”
Smyrniotis has also had to adjust training plans to match the day-to-day nature of what the CPL will ask of players.
“Building a preseason training (plan) is different,” he added. “You’re increasing the number of training sessions. So when you annualize your plan, that changes.”
Despite the overseas scouting trips and other potential leads abroad, the former academy director kept it in the family with the first signings in Forge FC history.
Kyle Bekker and Chris Nanco both spent time at Sigma before moves to the United States. Bekker, a Canadian international, and Nanco are part of a talent pipeline that also included Cyle Larin (Besiktas) and Manjrekar James (FC Midtjylland), among others.
Along with 15 years at the helm of the academy, Smyrniotis has managed Sigma FC’s L1O squad for all five years of the league’s existence. Led by Smyrniotis, the academy’s top men’s side posted a 28-2-8 record over the previous two regular seasons, making them one of the top teams in the division.
League1 Ontario, which was recently acquired by the CPL, is a provincial pro-am league that bills itself as a stepping stone to the pros — a chance for players to get a taste of what the professional game is prior to making the step.
“At the League1 level, you’re looking at the team as a collective and you’re looking to win on a weekly basis. I think that ultimately makes coaches and players get better. The players who make the jump from League1 to CPL will have a more natural transition into this environment,” Symoritis added.
“League1 was a very good thing for both coaches and players to work at a very high level, having that competitive edge. One thing we did well (at Sigma) over the years is our scouting component. Scouting opponents, players and how we broke down games and relayed information to our players.”
When it comes to former Sigma players who might not be at the level of Bekker and Nanco, Smyrniotis hopes the discipline and modesty he taught at the academy level will keep them in the right mindset.
“The great thing is I have good relationships with former players and they have a certain level of respect for what I think of their ability,” Smyrniotis stressed.
“Talent is one thing but the mentality is the most important at this level. You can have the technical ability and everything, but If you go from being the best player in League1 and you got to the pro environment and end up sitting on the bench week-by-week. The question is: how are you going to handle that? Because when the striker in front of you isn’t scoring goals and gets injured, the coach is going to call on you.
“I’ve seen it with the guys from Sigma that have gone off to play professionally. Not only did they have an abundance of talent, but they also had incredible mentalities.”