David Nakhid Academy teaches much more than football - players learn to be responsible to each other. They learn what it means to be a team.
When we moved to Lebanon six years ago, finding a football academy for my 15-year-old son was at the top of my to-do list.
Football had long been a big part of Adam’s life, so finding the right place for him to play would be critical to a smooth transition to life in Lebanon.
One of his classmates told him about the David Nakhid Academy, so we checked it out. We found the huge field behind Hoops, between the airport and Beirut, filled with clusters of children, grouped by age, running drills while coaches looked on. A couple of late-comers ran laps around the circumference of the field. Parents sat at small tables behind the sidelines, sharing coffee and stories. They clearly knew each other well.
DNA is more than a place to learn football; it is a community of youth and the supportive adults. For the children and teens practicing and playing there one to four times a week, it is a big extended family.
“Our motto is ‘Learning is Winning,’” said Nakhid, in a recent interview in his office beside the field. “It’s not just an expression; that’s what we are all about.” Not all of their players will go on to a career in football or to a university on an athletic scholarship, though some do, Nakhid added. But all of them learn skills and build character, and that is winning.
Players learn the importance of taking care of their health. The physical demands of football require them to build strength, endurance and agility. They learn to see the connection between sleeping and eating well, and practicing regularly on their performance.
Nakhid routinely asks his players about their grades. Discipline, such as being on time and staying focused on practice, is emphasized.
Players learn what it means to be a part of a team and the importance of caring for the wellbeing of others. They learn how to be good sports, whether they win or lose.
Academy manager Abdallah Harb summed up the DNA difference, saying, “We distinguish ourselves by providing quality and professional training by a certified coaching staff. We enrich our players’ experience with local and international competitions. We go beyond the football field by providing nutritional advice. We also help develop their character on and off the field.”
Nakhid, a Trinidad and Tobago native, was the first from his country to play in Europe. From 1988 to 1995, Nakad played professionally in Europe and the United States, including in six FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.
In 1995, he joined Al-Ansar Sporting Club of Lebanon, with whom he won three league championships and three cup titles. The reputation he built in Lebanon was one of the reasons he decided to stay here and open his academy.
Just as football was his ticket to see the world, he takes his players to international competitions in Europe. Coaches and parents have accompanied the team to Barcelona, London and other international venues. Nakhid hopes these trips help the players appreciate Lebanon.
“They have this impression that the life in Europe is so grand. Then they see that some families live in tiny apartments and life is hard for them,” said Nakhid. “They come to realize the good life they are living in Lebanon and to appreciate what they have.”
The impact DNA has on its players shows in the lasting relationships players develop with the club. My son Adam, now 21, is studying at a university in the U.S. Whenever he is back in Lebanon, he puts on his cleats and heads to DNA to check in with the family.
By Sandra Whitehead