By Aaron Tomich/NPSL.com
Brandon Jantz was a feisty, aggressive midfielder/striker for Marc Riley’s U-16 side at San Diego Surf in 1995. Jantz, as a young player, was one to think he knew everything while playing at a high level of sport. But Riley continually guided him as any good coach would.
Nearly 25 years later, the two footballers cross paths again in the NPSL, but in a much different manner. Jantz now is the owner of Temecula Football Club, affectionately known as the Quails, located in Southern California. His former coach, Marc Riley, is the new head coach of ASC San Diego.
The clubs square off in a Southwest Conference contest on June 19, and Jantz is determined to make the most of it for his side.
“For me, number one [for the upcoming match] is to beat him [Riley],” said Jantz. “I know he wants to win and I know that he knows that I’m very competitive and want to win.”
Competitive edge is a quality both men have as firm foundations in their footballing careers. Jantz continually strived to be the very best player. He worked harder than everyone else and pushed himself closer to perfection each day. Through humble beginnings, Jantz recalled the impact that Riley had on him in his youth.
“I wasn’t from a wealthy family whatsoever,” said Jantz. “My parents didn’t come to a lot of my games, so Marc would take me sometimes, or I would ride with a teammate or Marc would take me to lunch. So for a lot of tournaments, I would be with him.”
Riley was there in the small ways as a coach, but also in the big ways when it came to the performance on the pitch.
“He [Brandon] was such a driven player,” said Riley. “We had a good team that he was on, but there were a few players that had that hunger that he did, and that passion to be so much better. In youth soccer, a lot of times, it’s not as if the rest of the team has that passion. He was a little bit ahead of his time as a player when it came to that dedication and the hard work that players put in nowadays.”
“On my end, I was a pretty stubborn player who would never listen,” said Jantz. “But I think he [Riley] saw through that and wanted to help.”
Help came in many ways, including tough love. Jantz remembers playing aggressively in one particular match, having just been shown a yellow card before immediately being taken off by a substitute. To say the least, Jantz was not thrilled. And he expressed that on the car ride back home.
“I think I began to break down in the car and said to him [Riley] ‘I just want your respect as a player and I just want to do everything for the team.’ I hate to lose, I’m a very competitive player and would do anything to win,” said Jantz.
Riley mentioned that a key to coaching youth players, who have yet to fully mature both physically and mentally, was to clearly explain the reasoning behind your actions during training or in a match.
“You have to show them the method to your madness: why you’re doing this, why you’re saying that,” said Riley. “I think once you get that buy-in, and they start trusting you – and I think it took a little while for Brandon to start trusting me as a coach and willing to listen – you just have to gain their trust and that’s when the team starts to flourish and when Brandon started to flourish.”
Jantz recognized the opportunities that Riley was offering him, somewhat as a reward for his talents and his work ethic. That meant joining older teams such as the San Diego Surf’s U-19 squad, though he was three years younger.
“I was a young player, just 16, playing a few years up in the Dallas Cup,” Jantz said. “I think he respected what I did on the field, so I appreciated that, but I probably wasn’t the best player to be coached, to be fair.”
With the passing of time came the maturation of Jantz’s play, attitude, and overall approach towards coaching and managing younger players who have similar pursuits of professional soccer careers.
Asked if he learned any lessons in life and in coaching from Riley, Jantz said that it was all about perspective. He learned the importance of listening and coachability. He also better understands the vital nature of being able to connect with your players in order to get the best of their abilities both on and off the pitch.
“I went through it as a player, when you’re just telling me things I don’t want to hear, but you need to hear it, you need to listen, you need to be humble and you need to understand that coaches aren’t telling you things to hurt you, they’re trying to help you,” said Jantz.
Years later, Riley continues to have a deep respect for the work that Jantz is putting in and contributing to the sport of soccer in America.
“I respect the fact that he didn’t just get done with the game, wash his hands, and then move onto something else,” said Riley. “He kind of put his money where his mouth is, literally. He became an owner, he’s focused on grassroots, lower-level soccer in the United States and trying to build it [all] in the community.”
Circling back to the match between Temecula FC and Albion SC in June, Jantz knows there is something special about the dynamic between himself and his former coach and mentor.
“Everyone that’s playing or coaching or is involved at this level, it’s a small world,” Jantz said. “Everybody knows everybody. It adds something special to the game in terms of rivalry, but in the end once the game is over, there’s an absolute respect there of professionalism. That’s definitely expected from him and me as well.”
Photo Credit: Doug Yoder, Keith and Michelle Dereld