San Antonio’s Soccer Future is in its Past

As San Antonio FC gears up for this Saturday’s ‘Our Future’ night, it seems fitting to reflect on the aphorism “to know where you are going, you have to know where you’ve been.”  Our future identity as a soccer city is being shaped by those who have participated in its past and present.

IMG_7225There were several exciting key moments where all eyes turned to San Antonio: 2003 Churchill Men’s soccer team won the Texas State Championship and 2014 the San Antonio Scorpions won the North American Soccer League (NASL) Soccer Bowl Championship. Sean Arters was a member of both winning teams. Arters also had a stint with local National Premier Soccer League team Corinthians FC, who challenged SAFC in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Sean is helping to sculpt our future soccer identity.

I first met the positive, energetic Arters at a practice for South Texas Regional Adaptive and Para Sports (STRAPS). “The mission of STRAPS is to organize, promote, administer, and conduct a variety of adaptive and Paralympic sports for wounded service members and veterans as well as other adults and youth.” I had been invited by a friend who wears a prosthetic leg to see what the program is all about. Arters was bounding around the field engaging with everyone who came. He was passionate and knowledgeable about the game and displayed an amazing gift of patience teaching new skills. The participants in STRAPS matched his competitive drive with their own as they sought to learn each skill and not be denied. Arters enjoyed seeing “players so motivated to get better and be the best version of themselves.” Arters first started working with STRAPS through the relationship the Scorpions had with Morgan’s Wonderland. The mentality that all could learn and play soccer in San Antonio helped cultivate another piece to the SA soccer identity that even reached Landon Donovan.

IMG_7188This idea of getting better and training has always enamoured Arters. He shared, “[He] couldn’t sleep if someone was better. [He] would train the next day even if [his] legs hurt.” This is the mark of a true beast. Perhaps that was in the back of his mind as he forged his player development company, SA BEAST–to show how dedicated he is to training talent. After he broke his foot, he was at a crossroads: attempt a return to the pro player route or continue to establish the firm foundation of SA BEAST. He made the decision to commit to his players.

Arters’ father, Steve Arters, saw that “Sean developed certain drills while working on his own game growing up that he’s now using to train the next generation of players. He’s always trained relentlessly, fine-tuning different aspects of his game. So, when he’s working with a player on a certain part of his or her game, it’s very natural for him. The guy loves what he’s doing, and his passion comes through. I think the players–and their parents–who are training with Sean see the results and know how lucky they are to have a trainer of his caliber working with them.” Both Arters were members of the Crocketteers’ Travis 250, the first 250 members. The Crocketteers are a soccer supporters group that was established in 2009, helping to contribute to the great environment for games in San Antonio. Sean Arters debut for the Scorpions was in front of their first sold out crowd, playing against the Tigres.IMG_0441

Developing quality soccer players will only increase the level of play in San Antonio and into the rest of South Texas. Good players only become great players by facing the best players and dominating them. Arters is currently working with several players who share his competitive drive, who have dreams to play at a higher level and be the best.

One individual Arter’s trained with was former SAFC player, Devin Vega, who is establishing himself in the USL. The two trained together and challenged each other while they were on the Scorpions. Vega has shown his speed with the ball at his feet and his ability to artfully take on defenders . Vega currently plays for Phoenix Rising.

Recently, local Jillian Martinez, one of Arter’s trainees who plays club for Lonestar SC (DA) and Madison High School in San Antonio, made her way onto the March 2018 USWNT U-16 roster for the California training camp. Martinez also participated in the UEFA International Development Tournament in Northern Portugal this past May as a member of the U-16 USWNT. Martinez has accepted a full-ride to UCLA. Martinez was one of Arters’ first players. He praises her natural abilities. Some say she might currently be one of the best players in Texas.

Arters has another trainee with a full ride to Texas Tech through their women’s soccer program. There is also a much younger prospect who is just starting out with the SAFC Development Academy who has strong, natural talent. These players are helping to contribute to San Antonio’s soccer future. For too long we have been living in the long, dark shadows of Dallas, Houston, and even Austin.

As we talked about the SA soccer landscape, Arters noted “the Scorpions were huge progress. SAFC is taking it to the next level but are at a weird crossroads with MLS in Austin. SAFC creates a great atmosphere… There is a hotbed of talent to keep growing. There is no reason for these other cities to produce and not us. With such a huge population and diversity, we are ripe for it. If MLS doesn’t happen, we have to continue to grow in the right way.” Arters and I spoke about what the future looks like and his clear vision to be a contributing force in the SA soccer identity.IMG_3091

Arters grinds daily to metamorphosize SA into a soccer city we can be proud of, a city known for producing quality players who are able to weave speed, skill, and tactical awareness at an advanced level. Arters “just wants to see players here believe in the dream. I really want to see them grow and succeed in this city.”

This youthful, effervescent part of San Antonio’s past has clear designs for the future of soccer in the Alamo City. Daily, these dreams do not lay dormant in the past but are awakening our future.

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