"Because I work primarily with unaccompanied teenagers from Central America and Mexico, soccer was a natural interest."
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Jó reggelt AP olvasók! That's good morning AP readers in Hungarian, just so you know. Today I have one of those interviews that tells the kind of story AP exists to share. I won't spoil it for you, but there are so many people out there doing good work, who create teams to unite people and provide outlets for those who don't know how to connect otherwise. If you see a need like this in your community, it might be time to stop reading blogs and tooling around the internet and get to work.
On that note, I'll be starting a pick team in Kansas City. There's already enough people interested that I'm hoping to be able to potentially multiple teams. I'll be chronicling it all online for you to hear about.
But let's get back to the Lobos. David and I spent several weeks going back and forth discussing the team, it's mission, and whether or not we'll ever see a player from Antarctica. Check it out.
Tell the readers a little about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, and what your role is with the Central Texas Lobos.
David Walding; I am the founder, president, and CEO of the Central Texas Lobos. I founded the club which began as Galaxia Soccer Club in 1996, and have primarily run the amateur club and coached both the youth and adult teams since that time. I am originally from Alexandria, Louisiana but moved to Austin in 1989. I have resided in Austin essentially since that time, but spent a couple of years in Mexico, and a couple of years in Seattle. My work is primarily in the non-profit sector providing immigration representation to unaccompanied minors, asylum seekers, and other victims of crime. I moved to Austin in 1989, and graduated from St. Edward’s University.
How did you come to be involved in soccer in general, and Lobos in particular?
I played soccer as a youth in Louisiana in the ‘70s; however after the age of 12 there were no soccer leagues or teams in my home town. It was a different era. I remember that my high school created a soccer team the year I graduated, but elected to form the team with only freshmen and sophomore students. So I did not have an opportunity to play soccer until after moving to Austin. In 1994 I lived in Monterrey, Mexico, for a while, but returned to Austin and decided to start an amateur team with some friend. That grew into Galaxia S.C. in 1996.
What's the 'origin story' behind the Central Texas Lobos?
Galaxia S.C. was an amateur club in the Austin Men’s Soccer Association and from 1996-2000 fielded a couple of men’s teams along with a couple of high school age (U16 and U18) youth teams that competed in the Capital Area Youth Soccer Association. We were very successful during this time. In 2001, however, I relocated to Seattle, Washington for a job opportunity and the club ceased to exist. I spent just over 2 years in Seattle, and became involved with the Seattle Sounders organization through a client in Seattle who’s foster parent worked for the Sounders, advising with Hispanic outreach efforts. Ultimately the weather got to me (as a full-blooded southerner) and I moved back to Austin in late 2003 and 2004 launched my current non-profit office. Because I work primarily with unaccompanied teenagers from Central America and Mexico, soccer was a natural interest. A client (who still plays with the Lobos) learned of my coaching with Galaxia S.C. and convinced me to start up the club again. After progressing from D6 to D1 we began to look at options for taking the team to the next level. An opportunity arose with the Texas Premier Soccer League in 2016, and we made the jump! I found partners in the City of Kyle, Texas and the Pedernales Brewing Company – makers of Lobo brand beer – and after a fan vote relaunched as the Central Texas Lobos last year! This year we have managed to expand to our premier team, an indoor semiprofessional team with the PASL, and Lobos Youth Academy with teams ranging from U6 up to U19. We will also have an affiliated D3 professional club in Honduras later this year. We want to continue to grow the club to fill a void in the Central Texas soccer community.
That's a pretty incredible founding story. How much of an impact do you think the team has had in terms of helping people feel at home in Austin?
We hope that we have had a very positive impact. One of the things I love about soccer is that it is a universal language. It is something that is shared by different cultures and ethnicities throughout the world and provides no advantages nor obstacles based on physical attributes. It is a great equalizer. Therefore, it's the only sport I know that can bring people together from literally every corner of the globe. We hope we have therefore provided a conduit for our players to integrate into the community and avoid the tendency to isolate. We currently have players from every continent on the globe (excluding Antarctica of course) and we are sure that is beneficial to our players, our community, and it is certainly a positive for our club.
Since you've lived in Mexico for awhile, how different is the soccer culture there compared to here in the states?
There is certainly an intensity in Mexico that is different in the U.S. It's nearly impossible to find someone in Mexico who is not an avid supporter of a Liga MX team, and that is sometimes multigenerational. MLS has only been around since 1996, and the U.S. fan has a different perspective on rivalries than your typical Mexican fan. The U.S. soccer fan tends to support the sport over the individual team, because soccer has always had to fight against football, basketball, baseball, and even hockey for space in the U.S. sports landscape and to be considered a "major" U.S. sport. The U.S. fan also tends to be much more focused internationally than solely on the domestic league and a few major international teams. I would love to see more of the passion that Mexican fans exhibit present in U.S. soccer, but the culture is definitely different in the U.S. Seattle comes closest in my experience.
As you know, I've really only spent the night in Austin. As someone who lives there, how would you describe your city to an outsider?
Austin's motto is "keep Austin weird" and that about sums it up. It is unlike anywhere else in Texas. It is young, urban, with a tremendous focus on music (with more than 250 live music venues), the arts, and outdoor activities. Austin has a strong international flair because it attracts people from all over the world who settle here. But on the downside rapid growth and poor urban planning make traffic an absolute nightmare! We play in Kyle, which is a small town about 15 minutes south of Austin which shares many of these characteristics while retaining a "small town" feel.
Random question, but do you think we'll ever see a player from Antarctica?
No, that’s probably not very likely.
You currently play in the Texas Premier Soccer League. What is the level of competition like in the league?
TPSL has a generally strong level of play among the teams; the Houston Hurricanes being a prime example. This is our first season with TPSL so we are happy that we have been competitive. Our idea has been to improve over the course of the season and qualify for the playoffs, so that when the playoffs begin we are at a level to compete for a title.
What are two of the biggest challenges you face as a non league soccer club in the USA?
Our biggest challenge may be specific to our market, and that is to show a permanence and stability of our club to the fan base. Because of the history in the Austin area with the Aztex franchises, the fans are very, very gun-shy about fully investing themselves in a new club until that obstacle is overcome. We are certainly cognizant of that problem, and are working to convince the fans that we are here for the long haul. But ultimately that will come with time. The non league status may factor into that perceived lack of permanence in the minds of some fans. The second challenge as a non league club is event promotion. Much of that falls to the individual club, and we sometimes have to react to reschedules that are beyond our control. While we can certainly control home TPSL fixtures in Kyle to a great extent thanks to our collaborative agreement with the city, games outside of our Kyle field are difficult to promote without certainty in dates/times/locations.
Your last answer ties into my next question. The TPSL has the Texas Cup, which, unfortunately due to weather had to be rescheduled. What exactly is the Texas Cup?
Texas Cup is the TPSL open cup tournament. In previous years, it was played after the end of the regular season in a single-elimination format. In 2017 the format changed to be held in January (mid-season), groups of 3 with semi-final and final round. (Central Texas has since gone on to win this year's Texas Cup)
What are one or two things you've done that have been successful in getting people to come out and see the Lobos?
Number one – beer! We were able to work out a field agreement with the Kyle Parks and Recreation Department that includes beer sales at our games. That also flows from the primary reason for success, which is to truly adopt and live by the philosophy “this is the fan’s team... on-and-off the field”. So we really listen and try our best to implement what the fans want. Our name was chosen through a fan vote based on options generated in connection with our sponsor, and the fans identified some things they wanted to see in a new franchise: beer, a natural grass field, no American football lines, and a true “home field” where we would consistently play home games. Some of that is standard soccer ask; some is related to the instability in previous teams who’ve called Austin their home.
Ideally, where would you want to see Lobos, and the TPSL, five years from now?
We have some exciting future plans, but unfortunately most I cannot disclose at this time. But going back to our primary philosophy, we intend to grow organically as a club along with our community and fan-base. We are currently focused on being able to compete for a trophy in TPSL and reach the level on the field we need to do that. We have launched our Youth Academy and will also de developing that over the course of 2017. And we are in year one of a three-year project to improve our facilities. A personal goal I have is to soon develop a girls program (we currently only have boys teams, although a few girls play at the youngest ages) and develop players for the FC Austin Elite team, Women's Premier Soccer League. And we are hosting our very first tournament, the 2017 Kyle Cup, March 25-26th. As long as we count on community support, I think the future is very bright for us because this area has a tremendous love for the sport of soccer.
What's your favorite league and or team to watch?
I am an MLS fan first and foremost and support the U.S league. Specifically I love to watch FC Dallas and admire the way they have built that club with Oscar Pareja. Beyond that, English Premier League of course and sometime the French Ligue Un.
Favorite player, one past, one present.
I’ll have to give you multiple past players I think. I can narrow it down to 3 past players, and for very different reasons: Marcelo Balboa, Zinedine Zidane, and Ronaldinho. Today, DeAndre Yedlin.
Do you have books or podcasts, soccer related or otherwise, that you would recommend?
United States of Soccer by Phil West, and How Soccer Explains The World by Franklin Foer.
Would you rather attend the Euros, AFC Nations Cup, or World Cup?
World Cup, no question. But not the next two … have to wait for 2026.
Who's the one person from soccer history you'd like to meet?
Pele – I supposed that’s still a possibility!
What would you say to the person asking you, 'why should I support the Lobos?'
The Central Texas Lobos is committed to being a fans’ team, developing young local talent, and providing a fun and entertaining atmosphere. We hope to be part of the way soccer will progress in the U.S. We are very committed to ensuring opportunity for all, regardless of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or economic background. That last one is perhaps the most unique to amateur soccer, which is generally focused on pay-to-play. We promise to always work hard and listen to our fans, and try to provide the best possible product with the resources available to us. So if you want to see the sport grow in Texas, support the Lobos and we will grow with you!
David, thank you for taking the time to do this. Remember, if you are enjoying the weekly content coming out on AP you can Follow AP on Twitter, or Like AP on Facebook. And if you want make sure you never miss an interview, and want to read articles before everyone else, click here and sign up for the Newsletter. You'll be the first to know when articles are released and learn about other exciting content down the road.
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