'Good players always want the ball,' says Dallas Texans' Hassan Nazari

Interview by Mike Woitalla

Hassan Nazari, who played for Iran in the 1978 World Cup and 1976 Olympics, founded the Dallas Texans in 1993 after coaching youth ball in the highly competitive Metroplex for eight years. The Dallas Texans have long been ranked among the top clubs in the nation for sending players to the college, pro and national team level, and for their success at national competitions. The club, which has affiliates throughout Texas, in Oklahoma, Florida, Canada and Ghana, has its own field complex and indoor facility in North Texas, where it's launching a residency program. Nazari spoke to us for the Youth Soccer Insider's ongoing interview series with leaders of U.S. youth clubs.

SOCCER AMERICA: How does your club select players for the top teams?

It is always easy for a coach to say who is good. It’s a little more challenging for a coach to say who is going to be good.

Obviously, when the players come to our club at 7 and 8 years old, we believe in our coaches, who can recognize talent.

It’s so many different things. The decision-making, intelligence, quickness, how comfortable they are with the ball. And a standout can do one or two things extremely well.

Also, do they want the ball? The good players always want the ball.

SA: What role do tryouts play?

The world is so small now. We compete with so many teams, there are lots of games going on around us. So when the players come to our tryouts, they’re usually not unknown to us.

It’s extremely rare to come across players at a tryout whom you haven’t seen before.

SA: What does your club look for when it hires coaches?

There are several things. Knowledge. Having a little playing background helps a lot. And accountability. For me it’s always about accountability. People in a decision-making position always have to be accountable.

We also look for specialists at age groups. Somebody who’s a great U-10 or U-11 coach might not be a great U-18 coach.

SA: What do you mean by “accountability”?

We monitor the people who are in charge and watch how they make a decision for this and that.

At our club if someone is in charge of something and that thing doesn’t go well or doesn’t improve as much as we want -- we’re not going to give him another position making decisions.

SA: How do you judge the coaches at the younger ages, when results are not the best indication of how they’re developing talent?

When we hire a coach, we look at the team when he takes the first step.

Throughout the year or season we watch that team. And we always compare that team, individually and as a group, to where it was from the first day that that coach took charge.

We look closely at the team on first day, then in the middle of the season, and at the end. Are the players individually improved? Are they playing better as a team? This is how we judge that coach.

Now, whatever anybody says, at the end of the day, success in the sport is about winning trophies as well developing players. It comes together.

You cannot say, this coach is not winning, so he’s developing players. Or this coach is winning, so he’s not developing players.

At one point, it comes together and we expect that at the higher age groups.

SA: Is there a specific age when you start giving more importance to the results?

We are looking at two things from the older age groups. One, how many of our players break into the professional level. How many players get to college and play. How many realize their dream of getting a college scholarship. And all of that.

Two, how successful we are when we go to certain tournaments and compete with the rest of the country.

We have about 15 players playing professionally in MLS and Europe.

[Editor's note: Dallas Texans alumni Clint Dempsey and Ramon Nunez played for the USA and Honduras, respectively, at the 2010 World Cup. The Los Angeles Galaxy's Omar Gonzalez was MLS 2009 Rookie of the Year. Alejandro Moreno has won MLS titles with Los Angeles, Houston and Columbus.]

SA: The Dallas Texans waited until the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s second year, in 2008, to join the national league run by U.S. Soccer. What’s your assessment of the Academy now?

I think it’s a good start. I think the USSF has done a great job creating that league. Definitely it’s very, very competitive and very good. It’s all good.

It’s also important to recognize the Academy clubs that aren’t affiliated to MLS.

There are individual [non-MLS] clubs trying to do the right thing, trying to invest more in their players. They are building facilities. Some already have facilities. They’re hiring good coaches. They have connections with professional clubs around the world. I think they’re trying to do the right thing. You never really have enough of a good thing.

We have to recognize that as well. ... We're one of the few clubs whose players play in the Academy free of charge.

SA: Should the U.S. Soccer Federation create a Development Academy league for girls?

There’s no doubt, yes. I believe everything has to come from the Federation.

Eventually probably it’s going to go that way. But it needs to be started when it can be done right and can stand on two feet.

Our girls teams will compete in U.S. Club Soccer's ECNL [Elite Clubs National League] next season and that's also very exciting for us.

SA: The Super Y-league, U.S. Club Soccer and the U.S. Development Academy have joined U.S. Youth Soccer in the youth arena over the last decade. Has the increase in options for youth clubs benefited America's young players?

It all depends. In North Texas, we’re very fortunate that we play in very strong leagues in boys and girls, so there was not really too much of a need [for other options] for the North Texas teams.

But because this country is so huge, in some places the competition is not as good league-wise so probably that’s not a bad idea for certain areas. However, I think too much of it is not very good either. We cannot just keep creating league after league after league without giving up something.

One thing that makes the USSF Development Academy very good is by going to that, the kids don’t have to go to ODP. The kids don’t have to go through certain things. The Development Academy created something very unique and very competitive. At the same time they took something away that the kids don’t need to do anymore.

I think it’s a little different in ECNL because you still have to go through all the other stuff as well as playing in this league.

SA: Do you think youth soccer has improved significantly in the last couple of decades since you’ve been so heavily involved?

This is a great question and a loaded question as well.

If you look at the society, every aspect has improved since 20 years ago-- science, fashion, medicine, technology, and obviously soccer.

We have to ask the question, Have we improved enough? Could we have been a little further along?

Yes. There a lot resources in this country to give our kids more advantages than everybody else.

(Hassan Nazari is the founder and director of the Dallas Texans. His career with the Iranian national team, for which he started all three games at the 1978 World Cup, ended with the 1979 Islamic revolution. He continued playing for clubs in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar before moving to Dallas, where he played for the USL’s Dallas Americans and started his youth coaching career.)

(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for East Bay United in Oakland, Calif. His youth soccer articles are archived at

14 comments about "'Good players always want the ball,' says Dallas Texans' Hassan Nazari ".
  1. The Dude, March 14, 2011 at 3:23 p.m.

    What a Joke: "It is always easy for a coach to say who is good. It’s a little more challenging for a coach to say who is going to be good."

    Then I guess he can not coach, given 90% of the players at U-19 were developed by other teams, then recruited to his. However, he is not the only one. He just started the destruction of youth soccer in Dallas.

    His model has turned youth soccer into nothing more than a system for adults to make money off of kids that only desire to play a game. It will be the destruction of our national team if this model of greed spreads, and the focus does not change back to the kids, not adults seeking to make money off of them.

    Youth soccer in Dallas is a sad state. It is all about money. 30 years ago there were dozens of competitive teams from the south part of town, now there are a couple at best, and none on the girls side.

    I could go on for days about this and what an tool, money happy, could care less about the kids, individual Hassan truly is, but I will spare y'all the rant.

  2. Julio Zarate, March 14, 2011 at 6:19 p.m.

    You are 99.999% right dude. The only thing missing is that is not only the case of Texans. We live i Maryland and things here are not far different. FIFA should start investigating all state federations and clubs and check who is getting rich because soccer.
    Talking about academy, just check how many players are on those rosters and how many of them get some time to play.
    ODP is another big elephant that sock out the money from uS families. Just check the kind of coaches working for those programs. They do not a bit about the game. That is way the US soccer is not going nowhere. They need to spend some time in the "Fabelas" of brazil and see what is soccer all about it.

  3. Mick Mcarthy, March 14, 2011 at 9:29 p.m.

    Great article and very good insight from Hassan.
    To Dude and Julio it is very easy to slate these answers or the model, however, right or wrong the model works and the club are very successful in trying to improve U.S soccer. How would you answer the questions? How would you create an environment or plan to make soccer better in the U.S and manage to do it in 18 years?
    Congratulations Hassan for vision and commitment to U.S youth soccer.

  4. The Dude, March 15, 2011 at 1:52 p.m.

    Hello Mick,

    Model works well if one lives in the burbs and has money to burn. With this model we will never see one like Michael Jordan on our National Team, due to the fact that a so-called inner city child can not afford to play club soccer. In addition, this model, "cuts" late bloomers, that could have turned out to be fantastice players. However, we cut them at a young age before they have had a chance to develope.

    The answer is for the "parents" to take over the teams and coach them. It seems to work fine in Baseball, Basketball, and American Football. And there are plenty of "parents" that know as much about the game (if not more) than these so-called professional coaches.

    Coaching is about managing. I've seen plenty of teams at the Nationals with a "dad" coaching. Two of the best youth teams I have ever seen had a "dad" and the kids paid $100 a season (not actual amount but you get my meaing). Frame Culver out of Culver City, CA and Imo's Pizza out of St. Louis, MO were far better (ok, better) than any Texan team I have seen. Plus they played with heart. Oh, there was a team out of Maryland too.. the Jays or something like that.

    Sorry but the clubs are about the adults, the "independent" teams are about the kids. And these indepenedents have more fun, learn more and cost next to nothing.

    This Texan Model (insert club name) will be the downfall of our National Teams.

    The most fun is to toy with the idea of becoming an independent and then watch the clubs go crazy on why that is just dumb. When the truth is, they see it as a challenge to thier source of revenue.

    My two cents.

  5. Luis Arreola, March 15, 2011 at 5:03 p.m.

    Dude, you are dead on. Actually the Nba is full of Stars that could not afford to pay these ridiculous fees but had a chance to play. Why don't we have the same with soccer? Soccer is played more than any other sport at the youth age in organized leagues in the USA. The biggest reason is that the focus is mainly on the club and coaches and the results they produce. I am from Illinois and it's the same story all the time. I pulled my son out of an Academy club because there is zero developement going on there, and he was fully sponsored and a starter!!
    Mick, how has this model worked exactly?
    I know for a fact that Mexico and other countries do not have even 1/2 the amount the USA has of youth players playing club soccer. I think it's closer to a 1/4, somebody should run those numbers. So why isn't the USA producing more world quality players than these countries if this system works? And if it ever does, shouldn't they be producing even more of these players given the ratio??
    I will tell you why. It just so happens that soccer is the easiest and most played game in the world. USA Capitalist mentality right away turned soccer into a money maker and gave every aspiring player the notion that if you don't play for a big club you are not good, unlike these other 3rd world countries. The USA never had a chance. This is also why other countries are catching up in Basketball and Baseball. Passion, just passion!! There is no debate in these countries on wether these youth clubs should make this much money developing kids or they should do it for the passion.. Who would have figured.
    Mick, let me guess. You either own a big club or are involved with Hassan, right?

  6. Mick Mcarthy, March 16, 2011 at 1 a.m.

    I neither am involved in coaching soccer or own a club. I am a fan and played up until college many years ago my son now plays and I have no problem putting him in any team. I will start local parent coach ect and if he is good enough of course I will try to help him go to a "big team" they provide the best viewing platform for college or having the name of a good team on a recruiting form does help it's te nature of the beast. Of course if you are a good player you will been seen whoever you play for. But with parent coached teams that have 16 friends playing what becomes of the top 2 or 3 when the rest of the team is not at the same commitment level or ability. Dude your explanation is a good one I feel however that with the competition of the big sports in the U.S and the impatience of American culture towards winning that the parent coach cheap soccer is a slow process and people giving soccer a chance here want results now. MLS cannot stimulate money to put into the youth as it isn't popular enough and the country is to vast. The facilities where soccer is played are some of the best in the world for youth in Dallas Denver Florida these cannot be sustained cheaply that is the problem with the capatalism view the money helps development with equipment facilities and coaching( the dues of clubs pay for coaches to get licenses) at a young age parent coaching is fine in my opinion but at highschool age we have to let the "big clubs" take over the best players have passion but you don't have to play soccer in a dirt patch with friends to keep it. The comment that soccer is the easiest sport in the world is far from true.... Cheapest, easiest to participate in re recreationly maybe but what world star or even professional player came from these Rec teams or parent coached teams straight to the pro game? I can think of lots that were found young and brought in but not any that showed up in a movie like goal. Not everyone wants to play to that level but the u.s has the advantage of numbers cast the net big and funnel through to the elite. The dream is the same for all starting young that they have the chance to go big. Scholarships available for the players that can't afford it.
    That's about as far as my knowledge went on that rant thanks dude for the reply I found your comment interesting also.

  7. Mick Mcarthy, March 16, 2011 at 1:11 a.m.

    To answer the questions,
    Soccer is much more popular in Mexico the knowledge level and passion for the sport is far greater than that of average Americans. A high number of kids starting soccer in the u.s are first generation and they go home and don't see a soccer ball let alone watch talk about or play soccer. In Mexico and other soccer developed countries that is different.

    Michael Jordan for basketball came from a rich basketball environment culturally. How is the fact some players from inner cities can't afford to play for big clubs effecting them from starting their own teams with parent coaches. Maybe big clubs effect this but I cant see why. Surely then one small consolation to this would be going to the European youth system where only a few from many at pro youth clubs make it big. The rest, who all learnt for free after bein plucked from parent coaches are cut.

  8. Chad Mcnichol, March 16, 2011 at 1:21 a.m.

    I am noticing that a lot of the discussion in published articles, about whether youth soccer is headed in the right direction, centers around high-performance (and usually high-dollar) clubs that play other highly-competitive teams.

    I am not of the camp that will say that money is **THE PROBLEM**, but money perhaps is a reflection of the bigger problem....which is that spontaneous free-play at the recreational level is not really existent. Our culture is not one that fosters passion. Any walk around a recreational soccer field on a Saturday morning shows legions or bored players, either standing at the top of their own penalty area when the ball is at the other end of the field or else waiting on the sidelines to play about 50% of the game.

    Understand that at least one big reason why money has entered the equation is that there is a demand on the part of parents whose kids want to get to the next level, to escape this sterile farce that we call "rec soccer". Therefore, money is the symptom, but not the primary issue. Professional coaches have simply appeared in response to this demand.

    It doesn't have to be this way. The way I read other commentators to this article, the answer is to bring competent parent coaches to the rec scene. The way to develop elite players is NOT (as this and many articles that focus on elite clubs implies) to try to figure out, at age 10 or younger, who an elite player is and then give that player the best training possible with other supposed elite players. The answer is to simply increase the total talent pool by raising the general level of the base - rec soccer is that base. The greatest failure of soccer in the US is not what we fail to attain despite our substantial monetary resources. The most abhorrent failure is that we squander the most precious resource - the players - by failing to create a passion for the game in their hearts. Consequently, about 70% of players leave the sport after age 12. If this figure were cut in half, what would the "elite" level look like in ten years? That is where the most attention needs to be focused. In that sense, the use of KNOWLEDGEABLE parent coaches to organically create talent is key. I emphasize the word knowledgeable because, in my rec club of about 2000 kids in Arizona, probably less than 10% of the coaches have a clue about what they're doing.

    Just imagine the impact the US could have in soccer on the world stage if the immense numbers, currently at the lowest ages of our rec programs, were brought to bear on this "soccer problem" of ours. If they continued in the sport, under quality coaches, for 15 years. How many elite players would rise out of this pool of players that currently leaves the sport entirely?

  9. Chad Mcnichol, March 16, 2011 at 1:33 a.m.

    I think it's also worth commenting that I think Nazari wasn't quite specific enough and was actually misleading (or else just plain wrong) in his answer about judging coach performance at an age when results aren't important. He said that results and player development come together at the higher age groups. But the question was basically talking about winning at the younger age groups. And if he maintains then that winning and development come together at the higher age groups, as most anyone would eventually concede once you get old enough - exactly when, in your opinion, coach? His answer implied, or at least didn't adequately specify, that this is not at all the case at the younger ages (in my view, at least U12 and under).

    He said, "You cannot say, this coach is not winning, so he’s developing players. Or this coach is winning, so he’s not developing players." Actually, I maintain that you can say "This coach is not winning, although I believe he is developing players. Or I think you can also say, "This coach is winning, however he is not developing players." Especially at the rec level, one can find countless examples of winning teams whose players are simply coached to perform specific roles (players are not developed, but rather robots are created). This problem is prevalent especially at U10 and younger. So much so, that Best Practices has commentary specifically about this. So Nazari's comments should have been more specific on this question, methinks.

  10. David Delk, March 16, 2011 at 2:13 p.m.

    The Dude is dead on. This elite club system is not resulting in an improved level of American soccer. America does not have one elite male soccer player despite the resources and numbers playing soccer; it's really pathetic. And now most of the world has caught up to or at least closed the gap on the American women. It is true that too many of these clubs make decisions too early on who will be a quality player, and there is a hugh economic barrier in youth club soccer which cuts out a big portion of the population. I see it with my local club, we lose some of our best players to higher level clubs starting usually at U10 and U11; however, by U12 and U13 our homegrown players usually are equal to or superior to those players that left us. It is so easy to dupe parents with this "elite" club label. I know why your kid no longer stands out among his or her peers, but the parents will never figure it out.

  11. Chad Mcnichol, March 16, 2011 at 8:11 p.m.

    David -

    This is a legitimate problem based on your input and others' that I've heard over the years. I expect this practice to continue and it does impede the path to progress that I spoke about above. I do believe that if the overall level of recreational soccer rises significantly, this issue will still move to resolving itself as more parents feel their kids are getting quality development in the rec system.

  12. Luis Arreola, March 16, 2011 at 11:44 p.m.

    Mick, I meant easiest to participate in and start anywhere because all it requires is a ball and 4 people to play. Mexico probably has the most passion but as far as knowledge, that gap is probably not that big. You see, in Mexico parents are not as involved in sports as in the USA parents are in numbers. A young creative forward is more glorified in Mexico where in the USA they are too often seen as selfish players by parents and coaches. In the Black community parents are also not as involved as the White community. I think parents especially USA parents kill the creativity of sports in our kids because we are too involved and too critical. Michael Jordan was cut in H.S. from the team wich proves that even the greatest of players in any sport are some times late bloomers. We have to understand that different things trigger the competitiveness within us and in different situations and times in our lives. Did Michael Jordan play for a Big Basketball Club? Did he get 1on1 proffessional training? Does it look like he ever needed it? Didn't Donovan always play on regular teams where he was always the best player in his youth? The mentality is that you should play for an Academy to make it big or to college. It will take a few small clubs like mine to prove people otherwise. David, this is exactly what happened tomy club. A top club wanted 12 players out of a total of 35 in my club. They took 7 of wich 5 are starters on their top teams. Out of these 5, 4 played 1-2 years up in my club at a high level(1st,2nd division) in the same leagues that this top club plays in. They all currently play their age level and have sadly become regular role players. The ones that stayed with me run circles around them. How is this good for the Elite Player?? How can a system that depends soleley on club results,winning records,beautiful facilities produce world class players if the player is not the priority. We are a creative style club that everyone loves to watch and play at the highest level vs too many teams that stack the defense and do nothing but punt the ball to their fastest athletes on counterattacks at U9-U13 age levels. Most Amreican Nba Players developed their skills on concrete courts wich you can compare to bumpy dirt fields in soccer where it just so happens Ronaldinho, Pele,etc. honed their skills on and not on expensive well kept fields and huge facilities. It is what it is.

  13. Bill Anderson, March 17, 2011 at 8:34 a.m.

    The Dude, 30 years ago Dallas soccer (those were the days).

    The Dallas Texans are a business model that happens to deal in soccer "coaching". They could be the Dallas Texans of Gymnastics or the Dallas Texans of LaCrosse, the sport doesn't matter, it is only about the business model.

    This same business model has become a HYDRA showing up across the nation.

    Three Villians:
    1) Club Coaches Making Money
    2) Parents with Egos
    3) Colleges who only scout "showcases"

  14. Bill Anderson, March 17, 2011 at 8:38 a.m.

    Hassan, the last question is NOT a loaded question. It is a Yes or No question. The true answer is a resounding NO! Soccer has not improved significantly since YOUR involvement.

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