South Tahoe High School alumni named boy’s head soccer coach
The South Tahoe High soccer program will be kicking off the 2017 season with a fresh start, under new management. After searching for the past several months, Leon Abravanel was recently announced as the boy’s soccer team head coach.
Abravanel, an STHS alumni, brings over a decade of experience to the Vikings, having played both in college and professionally. Abravanel is also the founder of the local soccer-training program, Tahoe Training Camps, and the nonprofit, Juggle the World. “It’s a true honor to be back and coaching with my alma mater,” said Abravanel. “It’s great to be a part of South Tahoe athletics, having come from South Tahoe athletics.” During Abravanel’s senior year as a Viking in 2004, he helped lead the team to a state championship. “We are glad to return Leon Abravanel to the STHS Soccer field,” said Pat Harnett, athletic director and vice principal at South Tahoe. “As a first year coach, he brings a passion for the game and a tremendous desire for his team to succeed.”
While playing in high school, Abravenel got involved with youth soccer programs based out of Sacramento that eventually led him to a spot on the U.S. Soccer Youth National team. After playing soccer at South Tahoe and the national team, Abravanel, an academic all-American, landed a scholarship to play at the University of San Diego. Abravanel later transferred to the University of Denver to finish his collegiate career, serving as team captain his senior year.
All of the hard work created several opportunities for Abravanel, including making his way to the pros. Abravanel signed with an expansion of the professional team, the Los Angeles Blues, in 2010. “That was the goal — to get a full ride scholarship so I could save my family some money and play at the next level,” said Abravanel. “The goal after that was to play professionally, which I did.”
After a few season of professional playing, Abravanel opted to return to school and pursue professional work on the sidelines. Abravanel earned a master’s degree in organizational leadership and entrepreneurship and, subsequently, began coaching under the leadership of former U.S. Soccer men’s national team coach, Steve Sampson.
Abravanel said he’s eager to use what he’s learned over the years and apply that to coaching the South Tahoe athletes. He said before he can really develop players’ skills and turn the team around, however, he has to get the players to dedicate to the program. “You can’t dictate your strategy and coaching style without first getting buy in,” said Abravanel. Abravanel said he’s already making headway in the buy-in by connecting with some of the players over the summer and having some of them come out and train a little with him.
Abravanel said that his approach might differ from other coaches in that he looks beyond just physical skill and ability. “Once we get the buy in, then it’ll be a lot of mental performance, team bonding, making sure no player is bigger than the team—we’ll start there.”
Abravanel said he’s not just looking to win games and the number of wins isn’t exactly going to be his metric for measuring success. According to Abravanel, just getting the culture back and having a cohesive team could prove to be the biggest accomplishment in moving the program forward. “I don’t really care about winning games until we get the basics down. We have to build a sense of pride around the program again—once we do that, it’s going to start building itself.”
Abravanel said he has a great coaching staff to support him as well and that there’s not much they can’t take on together. “We have a great assistant coach, who is part of the community and a really positive guy,” said Abravanel. “He has a great soccer mind and he’s going to be amazing for the program. We have the pieces in place and it’s just a matter of building that foundation.”