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About Me – The long version

As I said, my name is Brian Quarstad and as I write this bio I’m 51 years old and remember a time when soccer was hardly ever talked of and certainly was not something most of us knew about. I have several early memories of soccer. The first was when I was very young and loved to watch ABC TV’s Wide World of Sports. You old timers will remember, “The thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat”, as the ski jumper plummeted off the ramp and tumbled, limbs flying like a windmill. The show was on every Saturday afternoon. This was of course long before the days of cable TV and sport specific channels. Wide World of Sports with Jim McKay brought you some of the sporting events that you wouldn’t often hear about and certainly wouldn’t see if not for their program. I do recall them broadcasting several soccer games. I’ve never been able to substantiate that, but in my mind I remember Pele playing for Brazil in a highlight segment.

My next memory is a story of a couple of brothers from my grades school. There dad was from the U.S. and their mother from Holland. The father worked for 3M and they brought their children up in Holland until the middle grade school years when they moved to St. Paul. I remember a warm spring morning when we went to the school grounds to play softball for phy-ed. A ball was hit out to my new international friend, Paul, who had been placed in left field. When Paul got to the fly ball, the poor boy had no idea what to do with the thing. So he started dribbling the ball into the infield with his feet, while all the other children, myself included, laughed hysterically. But still, I knew there was something going on there that interested me. I asked him about it and he told me in a funny accent that he had only played soccer. I wondered about the sport as it seemed a bit mysterious – in a good way.

My last memory is of the famed PBS program in the 70′s and 80′s called, Soccer Made in Germany. For anyone who remembers this show, and there are thousands who were introduced to the sport from Soccer Made in Germany, you will certainly remember Toby Charles who did the play by play. The film was all in black and white in the early years and they showed replays of German Bundesliga games, which we would get on Sunday mornings on our local public TV station.

Fast forward to the summer of 1976. A year out of high school, I was working as a photographer at a local landmark studio that is no longer in business. The MN Kicks were promoted on pop radio stations. What is this NASL we asked? North American Soccer League? A new sport with a new team playing at the old Metropolitan stadium, where my father had taken me many times to see the Twins play? So some of my friends gathered and we checked it out. The rest is history for me, as I was hooked in no time. For most of my friends, they enjoyed the huge youthful crowds, tailgating and party time. But there was more than that for me. I loved this newly found sport. I loved the agility and athleticism of the players, but I also loved the tactics and flow of the game. There were some very high quality players who were on the MN Kicks roster for the few short years they played outdoors at Met Stadium. The team, because of league organizational problems eventually folded and became an indoor team. Soon after the name was changed to the Strikers. They played at the old Met Center, home of the North Stars. I was never much interested in the Strikers so I lost track of pro soccer for a while. However, the Kicks left an indelible mark on me and many of my peers from that generation.

During those Kicks years, I started playing the game myself. I was never a great athlete in traditional american sports, although I loved sports and was a good distance runner, and skater. I found I had a knack for soccer and worked very hard at mastering control of the ball. I discovered that to take a soccer ball and swerve it around a defender, place it with the right amount of pace, and spin to lay up perfectly for an on-running player, is one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever known. As was hitting a cross first time with your foot and sinking the ball deep into the weaving of the net… well the feeling is fantastic.

Another draw for me was how international the game was. Most of my best friends were made while participating in the sport. I love how international the game is and because of that, most of my friends seems to be very worldly thinkers.

I no longer play after injuring ankles and knees one to many times. But in the course of those years I had children and  worked at teaching them the game. The reality was, I was the one really learning about the game as I took state licensing courses through MYSA and other programs. I started many soccer programs at our local park and rec. in St. Paul and helped the City of St. Paul to set up some leagues and play smaller sided games with younger players. Eventually I attained my USSF C license and spent many years coaching club and a few years coaching jr. high and then high school.

After 18 years coaching I hung up the clip board, and in 2006/2007, started focusing on writing about the game which I loved. I Initially wrote for the local web site Blue Sky Soccer where I will continue to contribute. I also contributed to Rich Allen’s Craven Cottage Newsround (CCN) for about a year. CCN is a Fulham Football Club blog and it had great success during that year, (It still is very successful), which I attribute principally to Rich who lives in West London, attends all the Fulham home games and is an excellent young writer. We were up for an award with CCN for top football blogs in Europe in the 2007/2008 season. We didn’t win, but it was a real thrill for me and I learned much about writing from Rich.

Somewhere along the way I realized I needed to have my own site to unite the many and varied faces of soccer in this state. So I have decided to launch my own blog/website called, Inside Minnesota Soccer. In this past several years I’ve not only done investigative stories and interviews concerning soccer, but have also started to do some audio interviews which I will be continuing to post on this site. You can call them a podcast if you would like. But being that they’re not published on a regular basis, perhaps I’ll just call them audio reports. Perhaps someday we can have a regular Inside Minnesota Soccer podcast. Wouldn’t that be fun… and a lot of work? I’ve made many very positive connections to the soccer community here in MN through the years which I’m hoping will help me to get the stories that I want to tell to Minnesota.

What’s my goal? I can’t tell you how exciting it is for me to see children as young as 6 and 7 years old who already have some ball skills. Back when I started coaching my oldest son, who is now 29, the  skill level was not very high. The game was hindered by kick and run for lack of skills and to many coaches who didn’t know what they were doing. Then there were other coaches, like myself, that were over-coaching at a too young of an age. Thankfully we’ve worked through many of those things along the way.

I remember a club tryout a number of years ago. A friend and excellent soccer coach Gavin Pugh and I were watching a set of U-10 players in a small sided game. There was a player with a fair amount of skill for his age. At one point he dribbles past his defender by stepping over the ball, healing it into his opposite shin. When the ball caromed forward off his shin he accelerated away to beat his man. Gavin and I looked at each other and both asked the same question – accident or on purpose? Gavin said on purpose, I said by accident. A few minutes later we saw the player execute the same move flawlessly.

Gavin was right. The point is to illustrate how far we’ve come with our youth players. I get really excited when I see growth in the sport, no matter how that growth comes. It may be individually by players who have been coached well at an early age, had mentors to model after and a number of soccer specific TV stations to watch and idles to mimic. It might be the level of MLS, NASL or USL, as they have just gotten better and better, year after year. It may be the Gopher Women’s team who are now ranked nationally and play an exciting and highly technical brand of soccer. Perhaps it’s our U.S. National Mens and Women’s team, the Mens team in particular as they have had much further to go to catch up to the world. It could also be the Development Academy teams as they have really given the top boys players a chance to be that much better.

From where I stand I see growth at each level, and my personal goal is growing the game of soccer. First at the local grass root level in Minnesota, then nationally with US Soccer and MLS teams as well as NASL and USL.

For me, it’s all about growing the game. If we do that, we’ll just get better and better. Then someday, we will compete on a global level in international soccer.

Me at Copa Minnesota November 2007

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