By the time the Dynamo Academy U14 team kicks off this season, they will be under the tutelage of a new coach, Shahad Farahani. Farahani, who joins the Dynamo Academy after serving as coach and Assistant Academy Director with Michigan Jaguars FC Development Academy, did not wait for his position to officially start before jumping in and learning the ins and outs of the club.
According to Farahani, “the idea was to come here immediately as soon as the season finished in Michigan, so I could get a feeling of everything in the club, from academy players and staff all the way through to the first team.
Academy Director Paul Holocher was looking for two key attributes as he navigated the search for a new member of the coaching staff. Shahad is one of three new additions to the Academy staff and he will focus on the Formation Phase, which targets players in the U13-U15 age group.
“In looking for the right person for this position it was important to find someone with a strong understanding of the game model we have begun in the academy, and also a growth mindset,” Holocher said. “Shahad really stood out on several levels, as a true student of the game, as someone with initiative and very capable of inspiring and teaching. We say it all the time, the Formation Phase is the developmental heart of the Academy. Shahad will be a terrific coach, mentor and teacher for these young players and we couldn’t be more pleased to have him join our culture of development.”
Thus far, Farahani has focused on integrating himself into the Dynamo system as much as possible. Coming from a program in Michigan that is as focused on player development, but which does not have a team above the U19 level, transitioning to an MLS academy this summer was quite a step up. For Farahani, facing a new challenge is part of what attracted him to the job in the first place.
“I was looking for an opportunity that pushes me to the next level,” Farahani said. “I was looking for a new environment to work with high caliber players but also to help with the players’ development process. Naturally, there is a higher standard that comes with working with young players who aspire to someday play at the first team level.”
While this may be a new challenge for Farahani as a coach, the 26-year-old is no stranger to professional soccer. Following his time as a collegiate player at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, Farahani went on to play for clubs in Iran, where both his parents are from, and Germany. In Iran, where his father also played professional soccer, Farahani competed for Moghavemat Tehran FC at the U-21 level and Esteghlal Tehran FC at the U-23 level. Following his time in Iran, Farahani went on to play for German side SC Staaken 1919 in Berlin, where he was a central midfielder in the German fourth and fifth division.
Farahani, who holds both US and Iranian passports, has also been invited to multiple training camps with the Iranian national team’s youth squads at the U-17 and U-19 levels. Farahani speaks multiple languages and says that this exposure to different cultures has been crucial for his development.
“It is always difficult leaving home, or leaving where you feel comfortable,” Farahani said. “I believe that real growth takes place outside of your comfort zone and this has helped me grow both as a player and now as coach. Although it wasn’t easy, these have all been valuable experiences for my personal and professional development.
These opportunities for growth have allowed Farahani, who currently holds a USSF ‘B’ license and is currently working towards his ‘A’ license, the opportunity to focus on honing his skills as a coach and to develop a philosophy for what is important to him in terms of player development. For Farahani, he believes that the best way that he can make a difference as a coach starts with having players who are truly passionate about the game.
“Especially at the U-14 level, we need players that want to dedicate themselves to the game and want to improve on a daily-basis,” Farahani said. “We want to establish our game model and game principles in our U-14 team as they are in the heart of the Formation Phase of our Academy. We push them every day in training to improve not just in tactical or technical components but also in their grit, professionalism and other details which will stay with them for the rest of their careers. Establishing these habits and principles at that this age is very important to their long-term development process.”
While instilling these traits in his players is one of his top priorities with the club, Farahani is also aware that if he is to succeed, he has to be constantly improving himself. Working with a staff that will push him to be the best version of himself was part of the reason he chose to come to the Dynamo in the first place.
“I decided to come here because I will be around high caliber players but also to work alongside a fantastic and knowledgeable coaching staff,” Farahani said. “For me, it is critical to continuously further develop and evolve as a coach similar to what I ask of my players. My hope is that this will ultimately result in helping them progress, on both individual and collective levels. I want to keep learning as I don’t think learning ever ends. I am blessed to be part of the Dynamo Academy and an environment that allows me to do that every day.”