A former footballer fields new talent
Upon entering first grade, few six-year-olds get to include a sport in their academic curriculum. But for Olgert Dalipi, born and educated in Albania, including soccer was a no-brainer. Having been introduced at an early age to what he calls “the beautiful game,” young Dalipi had already outgrown several pairs of cleats. For Dalipi, school began with two hours of soccer every day. As with any other academic subject, one skill at a time was demonstrated, practiced, and perfected through repetition.
After school, Dalipi spent hours playing soccer with neighborhood boys, including his older brother, who at ten years old already showed advanced skill in the sport. Dalipi followed this routine through ninth grade, improving each year. At 16, he made the Albanian national team, and at 17 was appointed captain.
In 1997, while he was playing in the Balkan Championship in Macedonia, Dalipi’s efforts launched his career into premiere-division European clubs for the next four seasons. But after sustaining an injury to his left knee that required surgery, his career as a player was over.
In search of a new direction, 22-year-old Dalipi joined family in Connecticut. Although fluent in Albanian, Italian, and Greek, he only knew a few words of English when he arrived. Always one to persevere, however, he mastered this challenge while taking his career to the next level—coaching. Dalipi brought a wealth of experience to U-11 academy teams, U-16 premiere leagues, and the Joel Barlow High School team in Redding. It’s been said that we excel at what we love, but “not without effort, commitment, and practice,” says Dalipi.
When he demonstrates a series of drills, all involving foot-to-ball contact, it resembles a perfectly choreographed dance. When he sinks numerous free throws into a nearby basketball hoop by using head-to-ball contact, he is truly a master at this “beautiful game.” Just as impressive is the rapport with his players. Kind, charismatic, and fun, he sets up players for a successful learning experience. His philosophy is simple: practice, practice, practice: “Learn the fundamentals until they become second nature to you. Get them in your head so you can execute them on the field.”