Ryan Shera has always had a passion for soccer and for coaching. As a former soccer player himself, Ryan understands the true reward of hard work, teamwork, and leadership that soccer can bring. After graduating college and attending law school, Ryan began working at one of San Diego’s largest law firms, and at the same time devoted his free time to coaching in the soccer program at Youth and Leaders Living Actively (YALLA). YALLA is a soccer club whose mission is to empower the refugee and immigrant communities in the San Diego area. Almost instantly, Ryan fell in love with the kids that participated in the program and the overall mission of YALLA. This realization led Ryan to the difficult decision of leaving his career as an attorney and following his passion for coaching. For Ryan, the decision to start coaching full-time just felt like the right thing to do; he didn’t have the same passion for being an attorney as he did for coaching the game he loved. “For some people, it is hard to leave something that’s good…but for me, it was an obvious decision,” Ryan shares.
The cultural dynamic is what fascinates Ryan the most about YALLA and the kids he works with. Many of the participants are of Iraqi and Latino descents, with some Asian and African as well. For these participants, soccer is more than just a sport; it’s built into the fabric of their cultures. Ryan says this really helps make coaching so much easier because for these kids, soccer isn’t just something they do a few times a week. “Their families follow it, they love it, and they have a passion for it. Without that cultural piece and passion, it doesn’t matter how good our programs are, there just aren’t enough hours to develop players to the highest possible standard,” Ryan shares.
Ryan values the relationship that Up2Us Sports has with YALLA, and the training and support that they provide to coaches in programs nationwide like YALLA. “There are a lot of organizations out there that want to help and have good intentions, but I think because the people at Up2Us Sports have worked in actual programs, they get what the needs are. It just seems like [Up2Us Sports] gets it on our level as people out there running programs” says Ryan. After attending a National Coach Training Institute, Ryan brought back curriculum to implement into YALLA’s programming. What he believes is the most valuable piece is to, “yes, teach sports skills, but, more importantly between the lines, try to show the players this is how you acquire skills in life. This is the mentality you have to have where you have a growth mindset – you are always trying to improve through hard work.”
For now, Ryan does not have plans to return to practicing law, and with the drive and determination to serve as the best coach possible to the youth that he is coaching, it is unlikely that he will have to. For him, “coaching soccer is every bit as challenging as practicing law. It is a profession. To really become a top coach you have to study.” For Ryan, coaching is his passion and it has taken him from a secure, straightforward path to one that was a bit more uncertain. His passion, the youth and families he works with and his ability to serve as a Coach Across America coach fuels him forward. As does his devotion to continue learning how to become the best possible coach. “The more I learn the less I realize I know. My goal is to never stop learning, never stop challenging myself to improve. The day I stop trying to improve as a coach is the day I should stop coaching.”
Coach Ryan is a Coach Across America coach, who is funded by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA. He will be completing his one-year service term on July 31, 2016.