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Staff Spotlight - Clyde Watson

There are few people more well-known in the DMV soccer community than Clyde Watson.

Currently MYS’s Technical Director, his career has spanned a handful of different roles — from playing and coaching at the professional level to working with young players like his current U12s — and as a result, Clyde has impacted the lives of hundreds of players and coaches alike.

His teams have brought home numerous elite trophies, sent players off to prestigious collegiate programs, and are renowned for their success around the country. But coaching was not his original plan.

“I didn’t think [coaching] was something I would pursue, but it’s something that I’ve always done and always enjoyed doing,” he said.

His journey to the sidelines began in Guyana, where he was born and grew up around the game.

“For as long as I can remember, myself and my brothers, we always played soccer. I couldn’t tell you when it actually started, but we played forever. And basically we all played in the same club and matriculated through the various divisions.”

By the age of 14 he was playing in the top division in his area. Within a couple years, he was scouted by the Clemson University coach and joined the team at only 16 and a half. Including himself, the team was almost entirely made up of international players.

“That was pretty unique for the time,” he said. He and his teammates lifted the Tigers to an impressive two NCAA Final Four appearances, and — in his own words — only lost four or five games during his time there. On top of that, Clyde was named All-ACC all four years of his career.

Though his talent as a player was clear, he didn’t expect to continue playing after college. His main objective was to use his degree in geology to return home to Guyana and work in the bauxite industry. His coach at Clemson had a different idea.

“One day my coach called me into his office and he said, ‘Hey, there’s this team in New York that is interested in you.’ And I said I’m not interested. And he said, ‘Look, they’re going to fly you up for the weekend, all expenses paid, they’re going to put you up in a hotel. I think you should do it.’”

He attended the tryout in NYC during a historic snow storm, turning a weekend trip into an entire week. The snow prevented the group from playing outside so the tryout took place in a gym. Professional players from all over the world were there — and Clyde saw that he could hold his own amongst the talent.

Clyde Watson (left) started his professional career with the USL New York Eagles.

So began his decade-long professional career. Starting with the New York Eagles in the American Soccer League, he also went on to play with the Pennsylvania Stoners, Detroit Express, and various indoor teams around the country. He also spent time overseas in the former state of Yugoslavia. 

While he played, Clyde started dabbling in coaching on the side.

“Like my professional career, I didn’t plan on coaching,” he said. His mentor from home became instrumental in opening his eyes to the possibility of making soccer a long-standing career. 

“As a kid growing up, I knew this guy August who was my mentor. And later in life when I moved to Washington, D.C. our paths crossed and we started coaching and working together,” he explained. “August was instrumental in me at least considering that maybe there is something here, maybe this is what I want to do.”

Clyde’s move to the DMV in 1984 allowed him to start coaching seriously through camps and clinics. He took teams at a variety of clubs and built up his name in the soccer world.

Eventually he was coaching at the highest levels — after becoming the Director of Coaching at Team America and heading the UDC Men’s Soccer program, he was brought on as a founding staff member of the Washington Freedom team in 2001. Legendary players like Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach as well as a slew of international talents came through the club under his guidance. Before the WPS folded in 2011, Clyde and the Freedom took home two championship titles.

Clyde Watson was the Assistant Coach for the Washington Freedom from 2001-2010.

With many high-level experiences under his belt, he simultaneously began working with McLean — working his way from assistant coach to Age Group Director. The teams he worked with became renowned for their success.

His youth groups took home national finalist and champion titles, won Super Y championships, were crowned VYSA State Cup winners over a dozen times, and more. Clyde himself gained recognition at the state and national level — he was named NSCAA 2007 Youth Girls National Coach of the Year, USYS 2011 Region I Girls Competitive Coach of the Year, VYSA 2011 Virginia Girls Competitive Coach of the Year and 1998 Boys Youth Virginia Coach of the Year.

His philosophy with all his teams has proven beneficial, both on paper and through his players’ individual successes on and off the field. Many have gone on to play at higher levels or have become well-decorated coaches and staff in other clubs. To him, soccer is mostly just a way to develop transferable skills for kids to use the rest of their lives.

“I don’t promise that you’re going to win a national championship or anything like that, but I do promise every kid two things — that you’ll become a better player and become a better person,” he said. “And we realize that team sports lends itself to preparation for life. And I feel that part of my responsibility is to help share the values that you can get out of this sport so that maybe you can use it at a later date in other areas of your life.”

Outside of Clyde’s team success, his ample time at McLean also helped him develop relationships with more and more players and staff over the years — many of whom still reach out to him today.

“Now there are a couple of players that I've got letters from 20 years after I’ve coached them that indicated just how fortunate they felt their time with me was. But there are a handful of instances that any time I want to ask myself why am I still doing this, if I reflect on those people and those moments, it’s enough to say, I know why I’m doing this.”

Now McLean’s Technical Director, Clyde’s role has shifted to include both administrative and on-field responsibilities. He works with teams of all ages, though he feels like his coaching is moving younger and younger.

“Over the years I find myself migrating younger and younger and younger. And I suspect that trend will continue. I don’t know that I enjoy that more, I just feel like it’s an area that I can contribute to. I’m doing a U12 group now, and I’m just having the best time of my life. Over a short space of time you see evolution and it’s very, very gratifying.”

Along with coaching, he hopes to give more time to his fellow coaches in a mentor-type role. Though he believes he has knowledge to share, he recognizes coaching soccer is a constant learning process.

“[My mentor] always said to me, ‘Clyde, when you finally figure out what this game is all about, you’re too old to do anything about it,’” he explained. “The game will evolve, you have to evolve with it, and nobody knows everything. So as a coach, if you’re aspiring to coach at higher levels or at a better level, you better approach it with the belief that just around the turn there is something there for me to learn. If you think you’ve got it figured out, you’ve just lost it.”

Clyde will continue to impact players and coaches for years to come. His passion for the game is infectious and his experience is unmatched.

“I came to realize, ‘You know what, I can coach soccer — but the reality of it is that you can impact people’s lives and you’re just using soccer as the vehicle,’” he explained. “And some of the most lasting memories and friendships I’ve had have come with and between people that I’ve mentored or coached or worked with over the years. And for that I am eternally grateful.”

Staff Spotlight - Farzad Mahmoudpour

“Watch me.”

If you’ve ever been around Farzad Mahmoudpour on the field, you’ve seen him jumping into drills and demonstrating every activity. He does it with precision and attention to detail — showing his players exactly what’s expected of them.

For him, showing is the ultimate form of coaching.

“Observation is the best thing,” he said — both of coaching others and of learning the game himself. With English as his second language, he finds it much easier to teach by example than use lengthy explanations. 

“I understand that sometimes when I talk less, it’s better. I don’t mind, I accept it. But I know that if I show, I’m going to be one of the best. I trust myself.”

His talent as a player throughout his career has made showing a simple task.

Growing up in the Iranian city of Ghaemshahr, his street was full of family members, neighbors, and friends that helped him grow his love for the game. He was nicknamed Kela — a name still used decades later.

His first memories of soccer started in the streets where he played with kids of all ages. Watching the others helped him learn and develop as a player.

“On the street we played soccer every day,” he said. “And it was ordered by the ages — the older kids had the privilege to play first. When they got tired, the middle-aged kids go. When they got tired, then we go. But I was lucky, honestly because everybody saw that I was good. They’d say, ‘Ok, Kela, you can play with us.’ So I had the privilege to play with the older kids.”

He was a rising star on the pitch, even placing third in the national states competition. He was also verbally invited to a camp with the Iranian national team. But in 1979, a political revolution changed the course of his career.

In 1982 he was arrested as a dissident and jailed for advocating for political freedom. He was only 15 at the time.

But even in jail, soccer was his solace. He would organize mini tournaments during the prisoners’ one hour of daily fresh air time. He even convinced the older inmates to play.

Imprisonment unfortunately meant that Farzad had to forego his national team and educational opportunities. After his release, though, he was able to secure a professional contract with a club called Nassaji where he made his debut at 18 years old.

His professional career in Iran was exciting - the 40,000 person stadium was full of devoted fans from around the entire city. He became a local celebrity, often getting playing advice (wanted or otherwise) from people in the community he saw throughout the day. 

Farzad Mahmoudpour first played professionally with Nassaji at 18 years old.

Though his career was taking off, the political turmoil in Iran forced him and his family to flee the country in 1995. After a risky escape to Pakistan, Farzad, his wife, and his 2 year-old daughter tried their best to safely assimilate into a new culture. Soccer again became his touch point. 

Through some connections with other Iranian and Afghani refugees, he started coaching and playing with a group called Hijrat Shah FC. They played throughout the area, dominating other teams and claiming local fame.

Again, soccer was his way to connect with his community. He often credits the sport for rescuing him and pushing him forward through adversity.

After many years of waiting, Farzad and his family were finally able to emigrate in 1998 to Chelsea, Massachusetts, right outside Boston. There they began taking English courses at the local community college and working to start their new life overseas.

“The social worker asked me,’What skills do you have?’” he explained. “I told her I was a soccer player.”

He began working odd jobs, but always saw soccer as his passion. On the side he trained and eventually tried out for the Boston Bulldogs and Cape Cod Crusaders — both being USL teams in the area. At the age of 34, he fought his way onto the Crusaders roster.

He began his coaching path the following year, traveling to Florida to pursue his NSCAA National License. Though he felt out of place and struggled to understand the course taught in English, his instructor encouraged him to simply “show him” that he understood the concepts — demonstrate the activities and coaching points, drag players around to show positioning, anything to help them understand what he’s asking for.

He did, and was awarded the license.

His coaching career really took off when he moved from Boston to the NOVA area. Players from his old Pakistani team had emigrated there, and encouraged him to join them. He did, coaching them throughout the year and starting his youth career in Arlington.

Soon after, he was awarded Coach of the Year from Arlington. Later, he began coaching within the state ODP program and at local high schools. He continued his licensure and received his USSF Youth National and “C” License.

He joined McLean in 2005 and has coached players in all age groups. Currently, he works with 04 and 07 girls and U9 boys. Even with his extensive experience, he still sees his coaching as a work in progress.

“To me the difference between coaching and playing: coaching is very hard. When I go to the field, I feel like I’m a student. I’m focused, I’m teaching but I’m learning. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know anything about this game, you know?”

But observation is still the key to Farzad’s success. His ability to see the game and understand his players using his own experiences means he’s able to connect on a deeper level. 

“The advantage I have is when I see something that is connected to my playing so I can put myself in my player’s shoes — physically, mentally, technically. When a player is tired, I feel it. When a player is rolling their eyes, I can feel it. As soon as they move, I try to feel it.”

Farzad's goal is to continue working with and developing the younger age groups. Their ability to learn quickly and develop key skills draws him in as a coach. 

Still, you’ll likely see him jumping into sessions — regardless of their age. He also often plays pickup in over-50 leagues and with other Iranian teams. His passion for the game hasn’t faltered.

Farzad still plays in adult leagues, even competing in national tournaments.

Coach Farzad often participates in his players’ training sessions.

“Playing is a meditation for me,” he said.

To Farzad, soccer is so much more than a fun game. It has taught him discipline, given him joy in dark moments, and helped him meet amazing people. It’s his connection to his community back home, and a way for him to remember those who he left behind in Iran.

He hopes to one day return to his home there. His community means the world to him and modern technology has helped him stay connected.

But for now, he will continue to do amazing things in the American soccer community. It’s clear his passion for the game isn’t letting up any time soon.

So next time you see Coach Farzad on the field, ask him to show you a thing or two.


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