Canadian Soccer Hall of Famer Nick Dasovic has had an impressive career—from playing professionally in Europe to playing for the Canadian National Team for 12 years. Even since retiring from his playing career in 2005, Dasovic has continued to dedicate his time and energy to the sport by managing a dozen different teams over the years. Notably, he’s worked with several young soccer players to help them realize their dreams of one day playing professionally.
So where did this interest in youth soccer come from? We sat down with Dasovic and went back to where it all began for him in 1975: the Croatia SC Juniors.
Q: What was your experience like in the Croatia SC Juniors program?
Dasovic: I started playing with Croatia Juniors when I was just 7 years old. My older brother Joe played as well during that time. There actually wasn’t a team for my age group so I just trained with my brothers group until one day they were short players at a game and I was asked to play. I can still remember running around with no idea of what to do but I loved it. I stayed with the team for about 4 or 5 years. I was two years younger than the rest of the players and the strength and power finally caught up with me. I then dropped down and played with players my own age.
Q: How did your first years playing soccer influence the rest of your soccer career?
Dasovic: The best part about playing with the Croatia team was the friendships that were created and nurtured. The friends that I made back in the 70’s are still friends today. I was lucky that I had good Croatian coaches in the beginning with gentlemen like Josip Domjan and Ante Simurina. Later on two coaches that had a huge influence on me were my father, Marko Dasovic, and Ivan Cirjak. All the coaches that were involved taught us discipline, work ethic, respect and most of all enjoyment! There was a lot of attention directed towards technical development and game play to develop our confidence and creativity.
Q: How did Croatia SC help you develop as a young soccer player?
Dasovic: Croatia SC offered me a platform to continue my growth as a person and player. Most youth clubs in the 80’s did not have a system set up where the youth players could graduate to the senior team. Our system was fantastic and the teams of the 1980’s was a testament to that, winning the Canadian Amateur Cup in 1985 and finishing in 2nd place in the 1986 Canada Amateur Cup.
Q: What would you say to the current Croatia SC Juniors who aspire to play professionally?
Dasovic: Playing professional soccer for me was a gift. I managed to become a professional and also represent my country through sheer hard work, dedication, perseverance and a little bit of luck. For all the professional soccer players out there, both men and women, everyone has his or her own story and path. I always tell younger players to “keep your feet moving”, never stop working at improving yourself, technically, physically and mentally, the tactics will come later. The last thing, and for me the most important, is to be a good person. Help your fellow teammates when they need support, be kind to your friends and opponents and always show respect towards your opponents, teachers, referees, coaches and last but not least your parents.
Q: What are you up to now?
Dasovic: I am currently the U19 Head Coach at the Vancouver Whitecaps F.C. Academy. I have coached in the MLS, MLS Academy, Canada U20, U23 Teams and I hold a UEFA Pro Licence Diploma from the SFA. Coaching young athletes who are on the verge of playing professionally is a very rewarding job and a difficult one as not all the players will make it. We have a lot of players that go onto the NCAA and Canadian Universities to play and study which is a great opportunity. Many of those players still have the opportunity to play professionally after receiving a university degree.