By Andy Ramirez
The coronavirus has had an enormous impact on all aspects of life, with college athletics being taken away from millions to enjoy. I am a first-year goalkeeper on Worcester State’s new soccer team and my teammates and I have been eager to get back on the field. We are excited to begin fresh with Aidan Abolfazi being appointed the new head coach for the Worcester State University Men’s Soccer team.
Abolfazi grew up in Worcester and attended Franklin Pierce University. Only being 25, he is likely one of the youngest coaches in the league. He has already shown us that he cares for the team’s success as we are doing a shoe drive to help raise money for the team. Players and coaches are collecting unwanted shoes to donate to people in need to raise money for the team. Abolfazi has taken the timeout to be interviewed by myself, so we could get to know him via ZOOM.
Q: I remember hearing when we first met, you grew up in Worcester. So, what was that like?
Aidan Abolfazi: Yes, I grew up right down the road from Worcester State. I’ve been here for all my twenty-five years. It’s a place that I love and care deeply about. My parents met in Worcester, raised the family in Worcester. My brothers and sisters are here. So, it is a place I take a lot of pride in and I’m happy to be coaching at the University in the city.
Q: What were your group of friends like growing up in the city of Worcester?
Aidan Abolfazi: Yeah, definitely living in Worcester, it’s a very diverse city. So, my friends were from all over, going to Doherty High School. Some of my best friends were Albanian, white, black, whatever, every race, because we found common interests, a lot of which revolved around soccer. I’m very grateful for that because if you look at my high school games, there are probably eight or nine nationalities just on the team picture. And it helped me at a young age to kind of learn the importance of diversity and inclusion for all.
Q: Obviously you made tons of friends playing soccer, what was your soccer experience at the high school level like?
Aidan Abolfazi: Yes, I played all four years. I was a goalkeeper. I was the only freshman to make varsity. I right away went into my first game as a freshman and played probably one of the best teams in state. We lost seven to one and that was kind of a wakeup call for sure. I actually ended up playing on top for the last probably six or seven games because I was decently good with my feet. Sophomore year I played in goal every single game; junior year, I started and played in the center because our team needed some help in the field, and we got a decent backup. And then my senior year I played every game in the goal.
Q: I know that after high school, you attended Franklin Pierce, in New Hampshire. How did you get into there and what was the college experience like for you?
Aidan Abolfazi: Yes, it all started with the college search. I knew I wanted to play soccer and I want to play at the highest level that I could. Then, one thing led to another and Franklin Pierce gave me an opportunity to play for the team. And I took it and ran with it. Looking back over my college career, I definitely didn’t play as much as I wanted to. But at the same time there was injury or just other reasons. So that’s probably one of my biggest regrets, is not maybe working a bit harder to get into the starting lineup consistently. I had players come over from England, Norway, New Zealand, Brazil. I was playing against some very talented players, which ended up making me a harder worker. It kind of reminded me of home because it was that diversity and that inclusion of all different nationalities coming together to form a team. I have friendships now that some of my best friends are across the world.
Q: So, after college, obviously, you decided to become a coach, so why coaching for you?
Aidan Abolfazi: I love the game and I saw it as my opportunity to kind of get involved and help players become better and do what I couldn’t do, which was win that championship. I think that’s something that motivates me every single day––I just love the sport. I want to be around it as much as I can, since I had that dream as a young kid to be a professional and play in England and play for the top teams. But it comes to a point where you got to be kind of realistic. And, you know, unfortunately, I never obviously made it, but coaching is my way to kind of getting me to where I hope to be one day, coaching in the big time, big lights and all that stuff.
Q: And you mentioned earlier that you were only twenty-five. So, it’s a big deal to be here at the collegiate level at such a young age. Do you think that gives you any advantages or disadvantages being a young coach, coaching players that are only two or three years younger than you?
Aidan Abolfazi: Yeah, I think, maybe as a disadvantage, just my experience as a head coach may take a little bit of time, but at the same time, you know, I’m confident in what I do and what I preach. You just mentioned the fact that we’re close in age from myself to the players; I think that will really help bring this team closer, quicker, because I’ve been in your shoes. It wasn’t too long ago that I was in the same spot as you, freshman year. I can remember it like it was yesterday. So, I think that’s something that’s going to be a huge asset to our program. Is this young, energetic coaching staff that has been where you guys have been. But I think coming in with a new start in the atmosphere and high energy level is really going to bring out the best of the players.
Q: What would you say the most difficult part of coaching would be?
Aidan Abolfazi: I honestly think it’s building that trust between coach and player. No player wants to be yelled at and no coach doesn’t want his players to listen. So, it’s finding that balance where, “I respect you, you respect me, but let’s achieve our goal together.” And that’s kind of just how I roll. And, you know, I’ve learned over my years that if there’s not a togetherness on the team, that can really hurt your results. It may seem all great in practice, but if that trickles into the game, then the team is in trouble. And so, I’ve learned that not just at the very beginning will help us get to where we want to be.
Q: Last question, how do you plan to drive community interest into the program and make people want to attend games?
Aidan Abolfazi: One of my first actions was starting the fundraiser. And I think that was just a way to show that to the community and to the athletic department that we’re here to make an impact on the community. We want to better ourselves. The community is probably one of the most important things for our program to utilize as its best asset. Because if you have that key behind you, what that means, you’ll have you’ll have fans supporting you. Especially after everything we’ve gone through, is something that hopefully people will want to come out and enjoy on Saturday night, get out of the house and come watch a soccer game at their local university. And as a team, our goal is a championship and really nothing less. That’s my goal as the Worcester State Men’s Soccer Team head coach.