Saturday, February 21, 2015
Uno En Uno With: Ahmed Dwidar, Haldane Soccer
ZS: What have been the key factors in implementing a winning formula and how has the program changed since you inherited it in the fall of 2010?
AD: The program has grown a lot and it's really a reflection of the kids buying in and wanting to better themselves as a whole. The key factor, I would say, in becoming a winning program and having a winning identity is getting kids to make sacrifices both on and off the field. The players we have give it everything and leave it all on the field.
As far as changes, Haldane soccer grew on the fly because so many were eager to turn the program around. It started with winning games and gradually grew into two Section 1 titles the past four years and also two regional final runner ups. Kids at the school now say soccer is "Family," but we always have fun and get the most out of our experience and that's why the numbers have increased and kids suddenly want to play for us. As a coach, it's been very rewarding to see it happen.
ZS: How have you leaned on your father, a professional coach in Egypt, for advice and what aspects of his system have you taken and imparted into your own?
AD: Pops tells me you always learn no matter how many years you've coached. He's been coaching forever it seems and he's still learning every day and learning new ways to improve and strategizing all the time. Defense is a huge part of his system and he always tells me "Defense and the last man standing wins the game." Fitness and preparation are also key aspects of his system which I've been able to take and use myself.
ZS: How do you assess this last season, despite the disappointing finish?
AD: We had great leaders in Peter Hoffman and Aiden Draper. Our defense was huge, helping us neutralize teams. A big factor was beating teams for the first time like Beacon, Hen Hud, and schools which triple Haldane in size. Our captains spark us by really having no fear in any opponent, no matter who we play. We respect every opponent but we are never afraid to step on the field, we always want to surprise people and eliminating any fear has helped us be more confident and composed.
ZS: What's the focus this off-season and moving forward?
AD: The focus with us really doesn't change much. It's always to keep working hard and playing with each other, meshing and playing to our strengths. We will definitely have a young team, really one of our youngest in a while. We will have a youthful look but we return veterans such as Danny Heitmann, Jack Lovell, Seth Warren, and Andrew Platt. Each of them will be asked to carry the team next season. Each will have to take some ownership and be accepting of the leadership role with no days off.
We are going to compete in the Lakeland summer league for the first time, so we're hyped about that. It will keep us in tune and keep us competitive right in time before the season. That's what we try to emphasize with the kids is a 12-month focus. The goal is to get back where we were. Last season, we were stunned by Alexander Hamilton in a semifinal game. We want to prove to everyone, no disrespect to Alexander Hamilton, but we are better than we showed that day. It is painful because on paper, we felt we were the team to take the crown. So it's a lost opportunity as we just couldn't finish the deal. So, we are going to again be looking for the third Section title.
ZS: What will be key this ensuing season?
AD: Again, we're going to be centered around defense and we will need progression and production out of our young players. They need to step it up and be ready for when their number is called. Being healthy is a key element. Our style of play is similar, grind all day and leave it all on the field.
ZS: How did you it feel to see the girls team thrive the way they did?
AD: It was great for the program, it was great for the community. We were all so excited and so proud of them and the program. Seeing them win states, it keeps us hungry and reminds us that we on the boys side are also chasing history. We're looking to be the first boys team in Haldane history to take home a state title. We understand, of course, it's not going to happen overnight.
ZS: Your brother, Moumoud Dwidar, has made good on his professional career. How do guys sustain a friendship through different countries and what's keeping an eye on his career been like?
AD: My relationship with my brother is great. Just like my Dad, I learn a lot from him and every time we talk it turns out to be a 2-3 hour conversation (laughs). He is currently getting back into shape and returning to play for a team that is to be announced. I think he has the skill-set to play for 10 more years hopefully at the professional level.
ZS: You always said the Marchese's helped you make a seamless transition to the coaching ranks as an unknown coming into Section 1...
AD: The Marchese's= Heart. They will go extra hard, to the wall and break through if they have to. They are such tough kids, mentally as well. They both play the game with tremendous intensity and they will give 200 percent on the field. They made it easier on me as a coach because of their leadership on and off the field. My best memories are Chris scoring in that 2-0 win en route to my first Section title. Jay's hard work on the field and leadership off it really set an example for everyone else to feed off of.
ZS: Besides those we discussed, who were some of your earliest influences?
AD: My uncle Nasar would have to be one of the most important people in helping me learn about soccer and not only love but appreciate and respect the game. He passed away two years ago and I miss him every day. He was my sidekick here in this country.