Each year at the United Soccer Coaches Convention, the association recognizes a select few for their special contributions to the sport and to the association’s membership. This year, five individuals will be presented Letters of Commendation during the Digital Convention.
The United Soccer Coaches Letter of Commendation is presented to a recipient for their service to, impact on, and/or positive influence on the association and/or the game of soccer in the United States.
This year’s five recipients are:
J.B. Belzer, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Lisa Cole, State College, Pa.
John Johnson, Wadsworth, Ohio
Dean Linke, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Cheryl Owiesny, Saratoga, Calif.
Belzer has been a tireless advocate for the association and the college game. A native of Edmond, Okla., he is entering his first season as head women’s soccer coach at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs after a 24-year run as head women’s coach at Regis University. Off the pitch, he has devoted his energies as the NCAA Division II Women’s Soccer Tournament Committee National Chair. He remains active as an ad hoc member of the NCAA Division II Coaches Connection, lobbying for United Soccer Coaches in matters of student-athlete health and wellness. For over 20 years, Belzer served as advocate for the association’s coaching education program by organizing, hosting and serving as site coordinator for diploma courses conducted on the Regis campus. He has been an association member since 1992.
A United Soccer Coaches member since 1997, Cole has been heavily involved with the association through Coaching Education and Advocacy. She brings a wealth of coaching knowledge gleaned over nearly 30 years of experience at the youth, college, professional, and international levels. She was the first national chair of the association’s Advocacy Council and helped build its foundation of what has evolved into one of the three pillars of membership. In that area, Cole also served as the Education Chair for the Women’s membership group. Currently the head coach of the Antigua and Barbuda Women’s National Team, Cole also serves the association’s coaching education department as Director of Goalkeeping.
Currently the President of the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association (OSSCA) after serving as its President twice previously, Johnson is a passionate advocate for United Soccer Coaches throughout the state of Ohio. He has been active with the OSSCA for more than 20 years and was part of a small group of that board who put together a partnership with the then-NSCAA that has become a model for other state partnerships nationwide. Currently, Ohio boasts of the largest number of high school coaches as members of any state within the association. A United Soccer Coaches member since 1991, he was the longtime coach at Wadsworth High School. Among the positions Johnson has held within the association include Boys’ High School Regional Rankings Chair and National Rankings Committee member as well as a member of the High School Advocacy Committee.
Linke has served the association with distinction through a well-recognized face and voice. A native of Toledo, Ohio, he has been a fixture in the game for nearly 30 years in media relations and radio and television broadcasts, including serving as a U.S. Soccer Press Officer for the 1991 U.S. Women’s World Championship team, the 1992 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team, and the 1994 U.S. Men’s World Cup team as well as the first ever Director of Communications for Major League Soccer. He serves as the voice of the association, hosting the weekly podcast as well as various roles at the annual Convention as a session moderator and one of the Masters of Ceremonies for the Awards Banquet. In addition to numerous other speaking engagements during the year, Linke was the play-by-play broadcaster for the NSCAA TV Game of the Week in the early 2000s. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has served as the host of the Coaching Through COVID webinar series developed by the association. He is currently the play-by-play broadcaster for the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage and USL’s North Carolina FC, in addition to duties with the Big Ten Network, the ACC Network and various other sports entities.
Owiesny has been involved with women’s junior college soccer since 1993 and has been a United Soccer Coaches member since 1997. The head women’s coach at DeAnza College for 27 years, she was instrumental in the establishment of the association’s Junior College Scholar All-America program, serving as both men’s and women’s National Chair since the award’s inception in 2013. Due in large part to her efforts, the program has grown to the point that she relinquished her duties as men’s chair a few years ago. Owiesny also serves as the National Chair for the Junior College Women’s Division III All-America Committee and the California representative for the Junior College Women’s Division III Staff of the Year Committee. Through her tireless efforts, she has helped grow the College Services membership in California over the past several years.