Josh Pransky Takes Unlikely Road to Job as 2017 USA Maccabi Soccer Coach

Becoming a soccer coach was never supposed to be in the game plan for Wynnewood native Josh Pransky.

Becoming a soccer coach was never supposed to be in the game plan for Wynnewood native Josh Pransky.
He played the game because he liked it and was good at it. But teach it to others?
“Never in a million years,” laughed Pransky, now the coach and assistant athletic director at his alma mater, Yeshiva University in Manhattan, who was recently named to coach the U.S. 18-and-under team at the 2017 Maccabiah Games by Maccabi USA. “Being a soccer coach was probably just about from the furthest reaches of my imagination of what was possible.
“I got a degree in psychology. I figured I might go into physical therapy or some aspect of medical treatment.”
That’s when he got a call from Tony Elmore, his coach for three seasons at Yeshiva, who was looking for a few good men to help with his Legends Soccer Club.
“He was my mentor who started the change of Yeshiva soccer being a legit program,” said the 30-year-old Pransky, who’s preparing for Yeshiva’s upcoming season, coming off its first-ever post-season appearance in 2015. “Before him, we really weren’t being taken seriously.
“I was a player and saw what kind of a drastic change the coach can have on his players. He came in from the first practice and changed things. Because of him, I saw the potential that you could really build something out of nothing. I was thrilled to work for him.”
Obviously some of what Elmore taught him has rubbed off.
Since Pransky took over midway through the 2012 season, not only has Yeshiva solidified its Division III program in the Skyline Conference — going 17-15-3 the last two seasons, including the school’s first-ever winning season in 2014 — but others have noticed.
Namely the folks at Maccabi USA, who feel Pransky gives them exactly what they want.
“Besides having the technical know-how and a great network from his recruiting at Yeshiva, the mold of athlete he’s looking for — not just physical capabilities but character — speaks a lot of what we’re trying to look for,” said Philadelphia-based Maccabi USA Director Shane Carr. “He brings a lot to the table, not just X’s and O’s, but finding a role model who can balance between work, life, family and dedication to his religion.
“Josh has a unique ability to relate to kids. He can talk to them on a level they can identify with him.”
While Team USA does consume some of Pransky’s time, he’s happy to do it. The process started when Yeshiva basketball coach Elliot Steinmetz suggested he contact Maccabi prior to the 2015 Pan American Maccabi Games. Following a series of interviews, Pransky found himself coaching the 16-and-under team last December in Santiago, Chile.
The results were mixed.
“We did not medal in Chile,” Pransky said, “but that’s largely because the players met for the first time on a Sunday night, had a walkthrough, then a game at 11 a.m. the next morning.
“All the other teams had been together for months. But we still only lost 1-0 to Argentina and Mexico and tied Brazil. We had a talented squad which played well beyond expectations.
“That’s why I asked for the U-18 team for next year. These kids are good. This should give them some sense of stability. If six to eight kids from Chile make the Israel team, we’ll have some chemistry.”
As for the 16-and-under team he’s leaving behind, it also will be coached by someone with a local connection — Joe Nemzer of Newtown, the women’s coach at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md., will inherit the reins.
Before leaving Chile, Pransky wanted his team to appreciate the environment, organizing a trek through the Andes Mountains.
“Josh is my guy,” said his assistant, Justin Greenberg, a 48-year-old former player who grew up in Israel before returning to the states to create SoccerKidsUSA. “If nothing else he’s a breath of fresh air.
“He brings in wonderful elements of pragmatism intermixed with teaching life lessons and competitiveness. Put all that under the umbrella of a not-for-profit Jewish organization, it’s pretty cool. He brings a strong level of professionalism to the organization.
“I love a coach who tells it like it is. He does that without tap dancing around. He’s a strong educator and it translates on the playing field.”
The Pransky philosophy probably wouldn’t endear him to any Hope Solos or players who put themselves before the team.
“You can’t play the game believing what happens inside the lines is separate from life,” explained Pransky, the youngest sibling out of four boys and a girl. “That’s faulty logic and sets you up for failure.
“I spend a lot of emphasis on character. A short fuse on the field can be bad for them in life. I try to get them to relax and problem solve. Emotion is something you can control, but you have to force yourself to do it.”
It’s paid off at Yeshiva, where a large part of the Macs’ success is because they’ve been able to recruit players who aren’t strictly Orthodox. While the schedule often plays havoc — since no games are played during Shabbat and the upcoming holidays will cost them more than two weeks of practice time — thanks to Pransky, Yeshiva’s no longer a pushover.
“We want to track down the best Jewish athletes with good grades from around the world,” said Pransky, whose career 25-33-4 record is a bit deceiving. “There’s no reason we should be a bad team.
“Yeshiva University is an Orthodox school, but you don’t have to be Orthodox to go there. I’ve found it as both a student and coach to be a very inclusive environment. It doesn’t matter who you are as a Jew. If you want to come to Yeshiva University they want you to be there.”
The season runs through November, after which Pransky and Greenberg will put together the team that will head to Israel in July. They’ll begin tryouts both in Philadelphia and Los Angeles in January, pick a team, then assemble sometime late in the spring to bond.
Unlike his Chilean experience, they’ll have at least a week-and-a-half of training in Haifa, where the games take place, before finally stepping onto the “pitch” for action.
Pransky can’t wait.
“This is my wheelhouse,” said Pransky, who lives in New Jersey. “I’m used to coaching older teenagers I can talk to about character and life lessons about soccer. I grew up in a family where if I came home complaining that, ‘The teacher did this or that,’ they’d say, ‘The teacher was right.’
“I had the proper upbringing and learned to respect authority.”
Now, ironically, Pransky is the authority. And no one’s more surprised than he is.
Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0729


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