By Lee Schoenbart
Since turning pro as a teen in 1978, Tommy Maurer's been around soccer as a player and coach for the better part of his 51 years. And his arrival at the Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks soccer club a decade ago was not by happenstance.
Maurer grew up playing soccer in his native Germany and trained there with Rot Weiss Essen and Zweckel. He then moved to England and played for Crystal Palace, Millwell and Dullwhich Hamlet. The North American Soccer League signed Maurer as a member of the Tampa Bay Rowdies. That's where he met Guy Newman who spent considerable time with the San Diego Sockers.
"I was hired by Guy Newman who used to be the director here (2000-2008). He was my teammate in Tampa. So he goes, 'Oh Tommy, you're living in San Diego now. Why don't you come and we'll give you a couple of teams.' So I coached a couple teams and soon enough I became director for our boys program in the competitive and then he signed me into the recreation program where I started about five years ago to really make that my focus as a Sharks employee," recalled Maurer.
"I became the director of coaching three years ago for the recreation," he said. "This year, my title's been changed to the director of the recreation program, so I've expanded beyond just the on-field stuff."
The "on-field stuff," as Maurer called it in all modesty, began when he was drafted from high school to join the pros in 1978. He also played in two Soccer Bowls. Today Maurer holds a USSF "E" coaching license. He's also scouted for the CalSouth ODP program. Last year he directed the Sharks Soccer Camps, Sharks Jr. World Cup League and Sharks MLS League. Maurer is an integral part of training the Sharks' recreational coaches each year in addition to running its winter and spring soccer leagues.
While soccer has its seasons for recreational and competitive play, for the Sharks and other local teams, Carmel Valley seems to be a hotbed of year-round activities for boys and girls ages six through 18.
Maurer's pretty sure the average person doesn't know just how popular Sharks soccer is.
"The enormity of a Saturday game day," he said, "is where we fill all the fields in our local area here. You go to any field, you'll see great competitions, great games through all ages. All the fields here in the fall are packed with games.
"Last year we had 2,300 kids playing, and that's just our recreation," Maurer said. "Then you add 500 more for our competitive (teams)."
Maurer then rattled off all the fields where nearly 3,000 kids play soccer including the recreation center, Solana Highland, Sycamore Ridge, Sage Canyon, Torrey Hills Park, Del Mar Hills, Del Mar Heights, Carmel Del Mar, Solana Pacific and Carmel Creek.
"This year, one of the exciting parts of our program is we have 51 players in the boys alone that are under 19. There used to be barely enough players for one team at that age, but now the kids are still enjoying our program," he said of the three teams that will play this season. "And through the excitement of this program, they're staying with it, they're still playing here. It's just a phenomenal moment."
Maurer is also excited about what's going on behind the scenes and on the sidelines with the return of so many Sharks coordinators and coaches.
"The excitement is the people that volunteer for us, as far as the people that sit on the board, namely the vice presidents of the recreation program Mark Watkins (girls) and J.C. Duncan (boys). They've been coordinators and coaches with us and now they both went through the interview process with us and were elected to the board as VPs," he said.
On May 20, the Sharks had its coordinators meeting.
"What's exciting is how many coordinators come back each year and the new ones that come in," Maurer said. "The meeting itself, the process of preparing for the season; we're only in May now and the fall season kicks off in late August-early September, so because of the sheer size of our program, all that together makes it very exciting."
Maurer is also thrilled by the return of its all-volunteer coaching staff, which numbers around 160.
"Part of the excitement is all the returning coaches," he said. "I do four workshops every August for the coaches and they're very well attended. You see them develop in time as good coaches. They're just so enthusiastic with the soccer that they will do a good job with our rec players."
About coming to the Sharks nearly 11 years ago, Maurer concluded, "I'm just so thrilled that this community has taken to my favorite sport in the manner they have."
The league office is at 11568 Sorrento Valley Road, Suite 14, San Diego, CA 92121. Office hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 2 to 7 p.m. Wednesday and noon to 4 p.m. Friday.
For information, call (858) 794-8404;