Tim Balatsoukas started kicking the soccer ball on the field when he was five years old. Always practicing and fine-tuning his skills and became one of the top players on the field at the age of twelve thanks to the guidance from his coaches. Today, Tim has his own soccer academy, Chicago Soccer Academy (CSA) and is apart of the nonprofit foundation ‘One Goal’, that is building an Academy in Liberia, Africa where young children can be housed, educated and play soccer.
Tim’s soccer career in Greece began after he graduated from high school, starting at Athletico Sulloyou, in Thessaloniki in 1999. After undergoing a double hernia surgery that season, he didn’t have much success, but his teammates did, winning the title. After another season he moved and played for Athletico Sulloyou Meteora, having a lot of success leading the team to second place before moving to Athens in 2001 to have a trial with top division Super League Clubs like Apollon Athens, Panionios and Proodeftiki. He landed a spot with Apollon, but he injured himself again and was sent on loan to Maxi Marathona.
“I never recovered having severe muscle tear issues in the quadriceps and playing simultaneously which I still can’t believe I did. I was forced to retire early from Greek soccer but with no regrets and I came out a better player and person. I was advised to stay out of soccer for 8-12 months to recover fully, so I decided to move back to Canada to rest and start my new venture in North America,” he says.
After a one year stint in Canada playing for London AEK winning league, league cup, and the Ontario Cup, Tim chose to attend Judson University. “I was a 24-year-old freshman which was an experience in itself. I was there for 4 years and I played forward, right midfield and centre-mid in those 4 yrs. These 4 years not only made me appreciate the playing years I had left in my career but also humbled me as a person off the field and I learned quickly that I was a mentor to these young American teammates. You can imagine that I was the veteran/old guy to these young freshmen that considered Judson as being their highest level of soccer.”
Tim says he has been quite lucky in life. At the age of 8-10, he was an average soccer player, but the tools his coaches gave him including the training environment made him understand that all he needed was a ball and good activities to advance his game. When he moved to Chicago to start school, his College coach offered him a coaching position at a youth club. Tim saw that parents were coaching the youngest kids, and felt that in those most important ages, they needed professional coaches instead of parents.
“I hung tight and learnt the business side, developed my curriculum, formulated the right learning environment and culture, focused on customer service for parents and training of coaching staff and made the move to open up my own Academy where nobody was going to hold me back from building a youth soccer club the way I wanted it done. Here we are (CSA) in our 5th year now with over 750 players” Tim proudly says.
“My goals are to continue to grow the love of the game throughout all ages 3-18 because even the oldest need to have fun and not consider it as a job. If I made it with the little ability I had, anyone can make it and that’s the message I tell all parents in our Jr Academy program (ages 3-10 recreational). This is where American soccer has lost focus and they are only concerned about winning. I believe that technical development is crucial at the youngest age between 5-12 with the clubs best coaches along with an environment to allow players to play multiple sports and grow as a person too, not just as a player. In the end, we want to prepare players to play High School and ensure our program sends 100% of players to College not necessarily to play soccer but to get an education more importantly. The ultimate goal is for players to play this game until they are old and grey and pass it on to their children because it is such a global game that can take you across the world. I would like to see players come back to CSA as coaches and give back to future soccer players even if it’s short term. That would touch my heart in a different way more then people understand,” he continued.
Tim is also part of One Goal, a non-profit organisation that was started by an ex-teammate of his Doco Wesseh from Liberia, who always wanted to make conditions back home better for the younger generations then he had when growing up, having faced civil wars and other obstacles.
“We initially had summer camps to raise money to rent shipping containers to fill full of clothes, soccer gear, shoes, medical equipment, school supplies, mattresses, toys etc. We also visited in 2013 providing soccer training to local villages and supplied equipment/ curriculum and mentorship on how to teach these kids along with improving grades. The foundation eventually raised enough funds through camps in America to buy land and start building an Academy which will provide housing, education and soccer training for those players to ensure a better future. It’s coming along but still, need help with sponsors and professionals to take it to the next level. It is a great foundation and has really touched my heart,” said Tim.
“I want to be able to grow the game in the Chicagoland area the right way and not encounter conversations with players and parents about their bad experience but more about their positive ones and growth and love for the game. Soccer expands outside the field and can teach us all about humility along with preparing these young kids for adulthood. I see myself guest speaking on how we can improve the industry and really help people understand the real depth the sport has and it impacts our youth.”
For more information on One Goal and how you can help, visit justonegoal