Each month we feature one ASA coach to learn more about his or her background and personal story and this month we’re featuring Coach Ben!
What programs do you coach at ASA and how long have you been coaching with our club?
I’m involved in our Academy, Futsal ID, Junior Academy, Ball Mastery, and will be Directing our Summer Camps Program this summer. I also run our official Coach Grigor Boychev Fan Club which takes up a majority of my time. I’ve been with ASA shy of 3 years.
When did you begin coaching? What got you interested?
I began coaching in the fall of 2016, the day after moving back from California, when I showed up in the ASA office and was asked to assist our Junior Academy program that same afternoon. Since then I’ve been on the fields 5–7 days a week for the club.
I have played the sport non stop since I was 4 years old but didn’t start coaching until I was 33. I competed on Recreational teams from ages 4–7, then Academy soccer from ages 8 to 17, collegiate soccer until I was 21, then moved to the area to work for D.C. United Sales Department (where I met and befriended current coaches, Jim Hogan, Ryan Rich, Chris Arnold, and E.D. Tommy Park). When I was 28 I moved to Los Angeles to continue to manage Sales and Marketing Departments for Chivas USA and Orange County Blues before returning to the DC area. There was never a time that I wasn’t playing soccer 2–3 times a week or working within the soccer industry but in all that time around the sport I hadn’t spent much time training youngsters.
Now I feel like I’m giving back to the game that gave me so much. The sense of purpose that coaching has given me continues to drive and motivate me to grow while passing along what I’ve learned to the next generation that will carry the game forward.
What is one of your favorite things about coaching for ASA?
The remarkable growth of kids as players and people within our Alexandria community. Now that I’ve been around for a few years I see kids that I’ve coached and then passed on to another trainer, and can see the strides they’ve made in ability and understanding as player and confidence as a young person. I’m always asking fellow coaches how a player I once had is progressing because I feel tied to them in a small way and am interested in their journey through the sport. I always appreciate former players making an effort to look me in eye and shake my hand when they see me.
What’s your favorite soccer memory from your childhood?
I’ll give you two memories that have stayed with me:
In 1994 the World Cup came to the US and I was 11. My parents surprised me with tickets and we drove from Springfield, Ohio to Chicago to see Spain vs. Germany at Soldier Field. It was a moment that felt so big to me, that this game could bring so many people together. I distinctly remember the energy around the city, all the vivid colors and the buzz of the massive crowd after each goal in the 1–1 draw. Witnessing an event that big at a young age planted a seed in me and I am extremely grateful to my parents for the experience.
In 2006, our D.C. United Department (including Coach Jim Hogan and Ryan Rich) exceeded our sales goal and were rewarded with trip to London to see Arsenal v. Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Arsenal went up 1–0, before we witnessed Michael Essien dropping this “strike of unbelievable quality” to tie the game, sending the crowd into hysteria. It still gives me goosebumps to this day.
When you’re not coaching what do you like to do in your free time?
When I’m not playing or coaching, I’m hanging at the Shirlington Dog Park with my Golden Retriever, Maisey; in the kitchen cooking to music with my girlfriend, Lauren; or pummeling Coach Daniel Chefena in FIFA. When I can get away I visit my parent’s cottage on Beaver Island in Michigan with my pup and traverse the lake in my wooden kayak that my Pops hand built from scratch.
Who’s your soccer hero and why?!
The game itself. The nuances of the sport forced me to solve problems under pressure, communicate with others quickly and effectively, overcome adversity, and taught me how to lose and how to win with class. All lessons that I’ve been able to directly apply to life.
And finally….give us one fun fact about yourself. 🙂
I want to one day breed Golden Retrievers.
Thanks Coach Ben! We’re so appreciative of the work you do for the club and the fact that you coach in so many programs. Also — we’d like to go ahead and reserve a pup from your first litter of golden retrievers. We plan to name him or her Griffin.