Jason Gerlach has a deep passion for the game of soccer. Earlier this year, he jumped at the opportunity to be involved with the game in an ownership capacity. As a co-owner of North County Battalion, (the San Diego based NPSL side that won a playoff match and reached the last 16 in their inaugural season) Gerlach has found a perfect outlet to channel his love for the beautiful game and his knowledge of finance.
We wanted to learn more about the man, as well as his soccer and educational background, and hear his thoughts on a variety of issues in the local and national soccer scenes.
Soccer Nation: “Jason, thanks for being with us. First off, tell us how you fell in love with soccer?”
Jason Gerlach: “I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the 1970’s and 80’s. They had a surprisingly strong soccer community and culture back then, in large part due to the strong European ethnic influences in the city (German, Polish, Serbian, Croatian, etc.) and there was a scrappy little club called the Milwaukee Kickers (that’s still around today) that by the mid-1970’s had organized a pretty compelling youth program. My parents got wind of it somehow and signed me up around the age of 6 or so. I took to the game quickly, enjoyed playing, and would spend the better part of the next 25 years playing in one form or another.
I had some great coaches growing up who would take us to games at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee (coached by the legendary Bob Gansler who would later go on to coach the U.S. Men’s National Team) and games at Bavarian Field (to watch the Milwaukee Bavarians – to this day still one of the city’s most formidable clubs).
My Dad would help me tune into “Soccer Made In Germany” on our tiny little black and white television. Over time, through interactions like this, I just came to appreciate the game more and more. I attended Rufus King High School beginning in 1985 which at the time was a highly regarded and ranked soccer program with some outstanding players, several of whom would go on to play top-level college soccer and one of whom played pro for about 15 years. I was named a co-captain of that team my senior year (to this day one of the great honors of my life) and while we never achieved our goal of a state championship, we played hard, had fun, and won a lot of memorable matches.
I had an offer to play Division III soccer but opted instead to attend Cornell University in upstate New York where thankfully, I focused primarily on academics and not soccer (though I played in a lot of fierce intramural and club battles). I continued to dabble in club and recreational soccer through my late 20’s until my knees forced me off the field for good. Soon after that, my two children (Sydney – 14 and Daniel – 12) were born and as soon as they could walk, I was getting them to kick a soccer ball around.
(Hosted by the legendary Toby Charles on PBS and airing from 1976-1988, Soccer Made in Germany was the first exposure to top flight European football for thousands of American fans.)
Soccer Nation: “You’re a Cornell graduate, and also hold a Master’s Degree from the University of Wisconsin. However, your education didn’t stop there. Tell us where your studies took you after UW.”
Jason Gerlach: “I’ve continued to keep my mind sharp by completing graduate certificate programs at both The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Business School in more recent years. In my mind, I’ll never be done learning and I do not rule out more graduate studies at some point.”
Update: Part II can be found here