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An Athlete’s Future in the Right Hands

By SIMA, 03/11/20, 8:30AM EDT


Developing Success is more than a slogan at the Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy (SIMA). It means that at each stage of the development process, there are highly skilled and experienced coaches with a passion for advancing a young athlete’s mind and body in the game of soccer.

Academy Director and Head Coach, Mike Potempa, has been at Montverde Academy since 2010 after arriving from the college game at Clemson University and is the visionary behind the overall developmental success of the SIMA Program. Coach Potempa demands hard work, sacrifice, and dedication focusing on the person first, the student second, and the athlete third – always in that order – to prepare our student athletes not only for the game of soccer at the next level, but the game of life.

Working in conjunction with Potempa’s holistic vision, SIMA's Director of Methodology, Toni Hernandez, hails from Valencia, Spain having worked with some of the best youth talents in the world of football for 6 years at Valencia CF of La Liga. Coach Hernandez is responsible for all aspects of staff planning, interaction, and execution, along with best training practices. He has also created our very own SIMA 365 developmental approach to ensure the overall success of our student-athletes from the day they arrive until the day they receive their diploma at commencement.

In the youth age group, we have Argentinian Coach Andrew Douek. He has extensive experience developing motor skills, technical abilities, and creativity in kids five through 13 years old, where decision making is the main objective. His passion to enhance these aspects of growth prove that he is the best coach to handle this age group.

Walkers Dawkins comes straight from the University of Central Florida where he was a team captain on their men’s soccer roster. Coach Dawkins works with our SIMA student-athletes through injury prevention, a vital aspect of our program.

Kevin Varnado brings great experience as a DA and college coach to the program. His passion and values are translated to each kid through every exercise. Coach Varnado is extremely knowledgeable in college guidance for young athletes and is one of the best in this part of the country. He has helped many players reach their goals of competing collegiately.

From Venezuela, Coach Carlos Pedraza, imparts a desire to learn and improve on our kids every day. His coaching experience pushes kids to improve season by season for them to reach their vast potential.

Goalkeeper coach Christian Neira has the ability to personally engage with each goalkeeper throughout training to maximize player development. In Chile, a country with long history developing some of the best goalkeepers on this side of the world, Coach Neira played and enhanced his coaching experience. Working alongside Coach Neira is Assistant Goalkeeper Coach Jose Rodrigues who has many year of experience as a coach and is currently a member of the US Deaf National Team.

From Sweden’s youth academies, Marcus Tjarnberg brings over a decade of coaching experience including work with the U17 Swedish National Team where he was the team and match analyst. At MVA he strives to share his international coaching an analytic experience with his players.

Leo Jimenez brings his 20-year professional career to SIMA along with his experiences on the Venezuelan National Team. Coach Jimenez enjoys passing his experience and passion for the game to his SIMA student-athletes every day in training.

Canadian coach Domenic Pultrone has experience with club programs as well as teams in the USL Championship League. Coach Pultrone strives to instill a successful work ethic in his SIMA student-athletes as they prepare for collegiate soccer and beyond.

While the coaching staff is a vital part of youth development, there is another line of SIMA staff that work behind the scenes to make sure a SIMA student-athlete is reaching their full potential and being provided life-changing opportunities. 

Oguchi Onyewu spearheads the SIMA event of the year, the annual Montverde Academy Soccer Tournament (MAST) where SIMA student-athletes have the opportunity to compete against top global talent in front of collegiate and professional scouts. Coach Onyewu pulls from his experience as a professional and national team player to create an atmosphere that our SIMA community will not soon forget. 

Montverde Academy alumnus, Benjamin Gebauer '12, is SIMA's Director of Operations and works with departments across campus to meet the needs of the SIMA program from arranging meals to communicating with dorm parents and campus administration. Mr. Gebauer also uses his MBA from Rollins College to negotiate and arrange apparel sponsorships for our teams. 

Working in external communication for SIMA, Ashley Kesselring is the Digital Marketing and Communications Coordinator and manages SIMA social media accounts, marketing initiatives, and the website. 

Left to right: Oguchi Onyewu, Christian Neira, Walker Dawkins, Domenic Pultrone, Jose Rodriguez, Kevin Varnado, Mike Potempa, Toni Hernandez, Marcus Tjarnberg, Carlos Pedraza, Leo Jimenez, Andrew Douek, Benjamin Gebauer, Ashley Kesselring