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The City Journals

Coach Leads Bingham to Victory

Jun 10, 2016 09:54AM ● By Tori La Rue

Bingham and Taylorsville rival over the soccer ball at their April 19 game. – Tori La Rue

By Tori La Rue | [email protected]

Although he’d played professional soccer in Morocco and Guatemala, trained in Brazil and Costa Rica and coached competitive league soccer in Guatemala and across the United States, Ahmed Bakrim hadn’t coached a high school soccer team until this season.

Bakrim is constantly looking to diversify his soccer experience to get out of his comfort zone, which is why he travels to different countries as a player and coach, and why he said he began his latest adventure as a coach at Bingham High School.

“It’s very, very interesting,” he said. “In high school you have players from all kinds of private soccer clubs who play a different style of soccer, and you have a very short time to get the group together to get them to use a style that can work. I like the challenge, and the boys adjust here really well.”

Bakrim lead Bingham’s varsity team undefeated for nine games during the regular season. The team lost its second- and third-to-last games, and tied its last game, which Bakrim attributes partially to five players being out with cold and flu. Bingham won the region title and made it to the state tournament.

Easton Hopkins, outside back on the varsity team, said his team believed it could win the region or even the state championship because Bakrim consistently told them they would make it.

“There was a different kind of intensity this year,” Hopkins said. “There’s a different kind of desire to win.”

Bakrim’s home country, Morocco, is full of a population that “eats, breathes and lives soccer,” which is where his passion comes from.

“While you’re there, you’re playing soccer as a kid ever since you first find a soccer ball,” Bakrim said. “You’re playing all the time.”

While playing professional soccer in Guatemala, Bakrim said he decided to share his love of the sport with children by coaching. He’s coached ever since that time. The secret to getting players to respond to coaching is to trust them completely, according to Bakrim, because if you support them, they’ll have a better view of themselves and play more effectively.

“When he coaches, he corrects mistakes and helps guide the players so they understand what will make them successful, and he is very positive in the way he coaches, so the players respond well to his methods,” Michael Christensen, Bingham vice principal over sports, said. “He has great energy and loves working with the student-athletes and has a great passion for helping players develop their skill set within the sport.”

Bakrim’s goal for the season, was to get Bingham’s teams to learn to play from the defensive lineup—dribbling, moving and passing the ball to their teammates—instead of focusing on long plays like many high schools do, he said.

“My philosophy is to build the lead on your feet, instead of using a long, long pass,” Bakrim said. “It teaches players how to get nervous, but not pressured. They learn how to not panic under pressure and connect the pass instead of kicking the ball away. It’s what you learn how to do at the pro level. It is the perfect way.”

More than just a coach, Zach Nielsen, holding midfield on the varsity team, said Bakrim is a fun person to be around.

“He talks with us and is making jokes all of the time,” Nielsen said.

Out of all the teams he’s coached, Bakrim said Bingham’s teams have been the most optimistic and friendly to each other. The team is also supportive, which is what makes the team successful, he said.

“There is not any bad attitude,” he said. “Every day is a challenge, but we work on what we want we want to do and who we want to be, and that’s what soccer is all about.”