The Richmond Kickers have announced the return of Head Assistant Coach Mika Elovaara (left) in a dual role that will also see him serve as Technical Director of youth club Richmond United. | Photo courtesy Jessica Stone Hendricks / Richmond Kickers
RICHMOND, Va. – The Richmond Kickers announced on Friday that Mika Elovaara is set to return to the club’s technical staff as Head Assistant Coach following a collaboration deal struck between the League One club and Richmond United that will also make Elovaara Richmond United’s Technical Director.
Elovaara’s appointment will begin immediately as he guides the Richmond United boys and girls academies in line with the methodology of the Richmond Kickers’ professional team. The partnership will build a pathway for academy players to reach for the highest levels of collegiate and professional soccer.
In this new role, Elovaara will now oversee the technical direction of Richmond United – unifying methodology to strengthen the Richmond United experience – and the work of Richmond United’s ECNL Directors, Sascha Görres (Boys) and Greg Boehme (Girls). Elovaara will also advise Richmond United coaches through coaching education and training methods, and establish a shared culture for both the boy’s and girl’s programs.
“For years now, the three entities, Richmond United boys and girls and the Richmond Kickers pro team have been developing in their own lanes,” Elovaara said. “With the success of each of the three on their own, it is a perfect time to truly unite and build towards an even more sustainable culture of development and success. We want all boys and girls in the greater RVA community to be able to pursue their dreams in the best possible soccer environment while remaining in their hometown, in the communities with their friends and family.
“This would not be possible without the work Rob Ukrop, Darren Sawatzky, Leigh Cowlishaw (Kickers Youth), and Jay Howell (Strikers) have done and the spirit of collaboration for everyone’s benefit. It is humbling to be asked to play a key role in this historic partnership, and I cannot wait to get to work with all the RU players, coaches, and the two ECNL directors. My quick u-turn from my recently acquired role in the MLS speaks for the love for the RVA community my family and I have.”
Richmond Kickers Head Assistant Coach Mika Elovaara instructs midfielder Owayne Gordon during the 2022 USL League One season. | Photo courtesy Jessica Stone Hendricks / Richmond Kickers
“Mika represents the highest level of understanding in regards to player development and watching him work over the past few years with players like Jonathan Bolanos, Ethan Bryant, and Stuart Ritchie makes this a very exciting progression in our work to unite the overall Richmond soccer community,” said Richmond Kickers’ Chief Sporting Officer and Head Coach Darren Sawatzky. “His work and education speak for themselves. The plan is to work every day together to help players here in Richmond reach their potential and populate our professional team on the men’s side while helping young women chase the dream of the highest levels of soccer.”
The partnership’s goal, through Elovaara’s direction, is to forge a culture of modern high-performance player development for all Richmond United players as they strive towards their dreams of higher education and high-level soccer, now with the opportunity to make the professional pathway part of that process earlier. With his vast experience and connections in the women’s game as well, Elovaara will look to further enhance and professionalize the environment for Richmond United girls and boys.
“Throughout my coaching career, I have been fortunate to work with young men and women who have gone on to the highest levels of the professional game, including all the Scandinavian leagues, the MLS and the Bundesliga, and, most recently, RVA’s very own Kameron Simmonds who has shined as a member of the Jamaican Women’s National Team,” said Elovaara. “With the people involved, we have strong connections to clubs in the MLS, NWSL, and in Europe. I am excited to work to build and unify a culture, daily habits, and environment that will allow those kinds of dreams to be pursued and fulfilled right here in River City. What could be better for the amazing River City Red Army than to cheer on a truly local girl or boy who will ascend right in front of our own eyes!”