KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Jim Sheldon, the first executive director of the United Soccer Coaches, has passed away.

He was 66.

“It’s a sad day losing such a good friend and mentor. I was fortunate to work with Jim for nearly 20 years,” United Soccer Coaches president Jeff Farnsworth said. “He was such a kind and compassionate man who touched so many people. United Soccer Coaches owes Jim so much for his leadership, dedication and vision! We lost a good friend and an icon of our association.”

Sheldon was the association’s first full-time employee when he was hired as executive director of the then-National Coaches Association of America in June 1992 and he is credited with laying the foundation for what the association has become today. He led the association for 17 years until his retirement in May 2009. During his tenure the association experienced extensive growth from approximately 8,000 members to 29,000 members. Sheldon also was instrumental in expanding the key areas of service, as the association’s coaching education, and awards and recognition programs needed to grow to meet the needs of coaches and the American soccer game.

He is responsible for moving the association headquarters to Kansas City, establishing the first full-time office in Fairway, Kan. in 1992. In 1995, he led the charge in absorbing the Intercollegiate Soccer Association of America into the fold, which established the NSCAA as the source for college rankings and other awards the association bestows today.

He was presented with the Honor Award, the association’s highest honor recognizing the career of one whose work through the association has enhanced the soccer coaching profession and contributed to the game as a whole, at the 2014 Convention in Philadelphia.

Sheldon served as Vice President for the 1990 Seattle Goodwill Games Organizing Committee. He also spent six and a half years at the NCAA in the publications and championships departments, including his role as Division I Men’s Soccer Administrator.

“Jim brought a new professionalism to our association when he took on the role as the first full-time executive director. He was a servant leader who valued every member and his leadership helped shape the ethos of today’s United Soccer Coaches,” United Soccer Coaches CEO Lynn Berling-Manuel said. “His kindness and willingness to always provide advice and insight was a gift I am lucky to have had in my role as CEO. We had known each other from his earliest days in soccer and I will miss him.”

Sheldon is a 1975 graduate of the University of Kansas, where he was the captain of the club soccer team. He was born in Hinsdale, Ill., and grew up in Williamstown, Mass., where he was a letterman soccer player at Mount Greylock Regional High School.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Janice, in 2009 and is survived by his sons, Ilya (29) and Nicholas (24), both of Overland Park, Kan.