The train just keeps on rolling. All aboard!
SoccerNation is spotlighting youth clubs from all over these United States of America. Powered by soccerloco, the SoccerNation Club Spotlight Series has already taken us all around Southern California and to some very special soccer spots across this great country. From the Hawaiian Islands to the Eastern Seaboard, we are on a mission to showcase the people and organizations helping to build the future of the beautiful game.
In the latest edition of the SoccerNation Club Spotlight, we returned to San Diego for an engaging chat with Sami Nedjar, the Technical Director of San Diego United. Sami is a well known personality in the local soccer community, and we got to know quite a bit about his soccer background, his love for helping young people get into college, and his work on and off the field with San Diego United.
Here’s Part 1 of the conversation.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): Sami, thanks for joining us.
Sami Nedjar (San Diego United): Thanks for having me. It’s good to be here.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): So first off, tell us a little about your club and the history of San Diego United.
Sami Nedjar (San Diego United): The club was founded in 2008. Our program has been evolving ever since. Every year we try to take quality steps forward. We are constantly trying to improve our training facilities. We always urge our coaches to work more as a team, and we are always looking for positive help within our Board of Directors. Nobody’s perfect, but if you’re constantly trying to get better, good things will happen. We have a passionate group of coaches, and our Director of Coaching, Jason Heth, is outstanding. We also have a good amount of volunteer board members. With all of us striving to become better, our program is steadily improving.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): Let’s expand on that steady improvement you speak of. What are some of the main ways in which you’ve seen the club grow over the last few years?
Sami Nedjar (San Diego United): I am privileged to work as the technical director at San Diego United, with many other very good coaches around me. Just like playing a game with 10 other teammates, coaches have to be able to work together in order to make the team or club strong. No situation is perfect, but, our staff does a very good job of coming together and inspires kids to be better soccer players. We have grown so much as a club thanks to our phenomenal coaches.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): What would you say are some of your club’s biggest strengths?
Sami Nedjar (San Diego United): Again, I have to go back to our coaching, and the way we work to give our players the best development possible. At the youngest ages, we stress individual technical training. As the players get older, we focus more on tactical situations. At the oldest ages, we stress competing in order to obtain the goals that the players set for themselves.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): So we’ve talked about the great strengths of San Diego United. What would you say are some of the biggest challenges faced by the club?
Sami Nedjar (San Diego United): It’s an interesting question because there are so many challenges that clubs face on a day to day basis. There is one very unique thing that stands out for me as far as challenges go.
I think it is tough to make young soccer players decide between playing high school soccer or not playing high school soccer. We at San Diego United have always tried to work in conjunction with local high school programs. I think everyone is able to understand that there is a club sport season, where the clubs do a lot of the coaching and training. I think most everybody also understands that there is then the high school season, not only where the players continue to grow as athletes, but also foster their school relationships. We feel that players having the ability to experience both club and high school soccer is very important to their growth as individuals and the collective growth of our club (any club for that matter) and the respective high schools.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): Tell us a little more about your love for high school soccer, and how you feel about players perhaps being restricted when it comes to their ability to play for their school.
Sami Nedjar (San Diego United): I am a big supporter of high school soccer, and it is a little disappointing that going forward many players will not have the opportunity to play high school soccer. I am someone who always supports players suiting up for their schools, and I hope the strength of these high school programs continues to grow rather than be weakened by various club rules. Again, high school soccer can be such an important part of the development process of our young people, as soccer players and as human beings.
Nate Abaurrea (SoccerNation): Sami, what are you most proud of in regards to San Diego United?
Sami Nedjar (San Diego United): What gives me pride year and year out is when graduating seniors decide on the colleges they’re going to attend. Some go to schools based on their academics, and others get the bonus of playing college soccer as well. I enjoy hearing about what their plans are. I enjoy seeing them go off into the next phase of their life. It is truly awesome to see that transition.
One of the reasons I head the college prep program at San Diego United is that I relish helping players and families navigate through this very tough process. It is something my parents did not know anything about. Luckily, I had good enough grades that I earned an academic scholarship to attend USC. But I still would have loved to have had some knowledge about what to do and how to go about things in such an important period of life.
I love giving back in this department, and helping young people pursue their dreams, both in the classroom and on the soccer field.
(Stay tuned to SoccerNation.com for the next edition of our Club Spotlight Series, powered by soccerloco, Part 2 of our conversation with Sami Nedjar of San Diego United.)