Unrealized Promises from Lake Tahoe Community College soccer program Leave Bitter Aftertaste

Alina Croft was initially approached by a former Lake Tahoe Community College Soccer player and then dug deeper to find out more about dashed dreams involving the California team, including for foreign recruits. The current athletic director says it’s all in the past, but affected players have not forgotten.

Graphic designed by Lauren Turner.

Shiny Promises In the Recent Past

Josh Anderson is a 2018 graduate from Lake Tahoe Community College (LTCC) located in Lake Tahoe, California, where he was recruited by then head coach Benjamin Wade, coming all the way from Portugal.

In a series of messages, Anderson writes he was promised comfortable housing, a spot on the soccer team as a starter and captain, and opportunities to be recruited by a semi-professional soccer club which could eventually lead to an offer on a professional team. All of this turned out to be false promises, he said in communications with The Reynolds Sandbox, and a way to mislead Anderson, and other players, both local and from overseas, to play on what was then a brand new team started with fanfare in 2014.

The Coyotes play in the California Community College Athletic Association, and are now scheduled to begin practices around January 18, 2021, with games expected to start around Feb. 13, 2021. The CCCAA oversees over a hundred athletic programs in the soccer rich state. None of them however are seen in the greater soccer community as powerhouses, but more as stepping stones to bigger opportunities.

Foreign players speak of expectations as the LTCC soccer men’s team was about to get underway

Current Athletic Director “Does Not Condone The Behavior Alluded To”

The allegations in the story date back to the program’s initial days, but still linger for the soccer players who say they endured them.

“As the college’s current Athletic Director, I can only point out and emphasize that our current Athletic Department does not condone the behavior alluded to in the student accusations mentioned, and does not engage in misleading recruiting tactics,” Steven Berry wrote to Reynolds Sandbox when asked for comment. “We strictly adhere to all California state athletics guidelines for community colleges on recruiting, and guidelines on all other sport-related activities. We are focused on clear and honest communication with our student-athletes while also focusing our efforts on developing their performance both on the soccer pitch and in the classroom.” According to his LinkedIn he is both Director of Enrollment Services & Athletics at Lake Tahoe Community College, positions he’s held according to his profile since Nov. 2018.

Anderson playing soccer during his 2016 season with LTCC.

Big Dreams, Dashed

Anderson had played soccer all of his life and he and his parents had big dreams for his future. They believed him joining the Coyotes was going to be another step towards a professional soccer career.

Anderson moved across the ocean in 2015 to initially ‘red-shirt’ for the team, meaning he practiced with the team but did not play in league games in order to prolong his eligible playing years into the 2016–2017 and 2017–2018 seasons.

“I’ve played soccer for as long as I can remember. The first memory I’ve ever had in my 24 years of life and the reason that I wanted to play collegiate soccer was because I aspired to be like the professionals that I’ve always watched,” Anderson said.

Then-coach Wade recruited Anderson through an agency which bills itself as a sports scholarship and university admissions agency. “I got recruited to play soccer in the USA by LTCC from a recruitment agency called ‘First Point USA’ with Coach Benjamin Wade,” Anderson said.

The British-based organization has as its long-winded motto “Bringing the next generation of sporting legends together with prestigious US universities through scholarships. Change your life through a sporting scholarship at America’s top universities,” it states at the top of its website.

Another player who will be referred to as Sean Watson, to protect his anonymity, says he played on the team for several years and was also told he had the potential and skill to be signed to a professional soccer team.

“I was recruited by coach Ben Wade after several months of him saying he would come to practices and games. He finally showed up and I got an offer,” Watson said.

“We’ve got guys from all over the world,” Wade said in a tv interview before the 2015–2016 season, hyping up a program players say came up quite short of fulfilling promises made.

A Coaching Carousel

Watson, who was already on the West Coast, so had less of a move to make, still felt the same way as Anderson with the offers and promises. He said the follow through clearly did not meet his expectations either.

Watson says he was told specifically he had a spot on the team, and that he would have adequate housing, scholarship opportunities, and collegiate schools looking to recruit him to their bigger programs.

“In August of 2015 I went to LTCC for tryouts and found out there were about 160 players, which is rather a lot for a community college. I also shouldn’t have had to try out like that. That was the only school I was supposed to go to so I was kind of stuck there,” Watson remembers.

“I made the team officially and then they didn’t end up having any of the housing I was promised,” he alleges. “I ended up living with seven other athletes in a two bedroom house. There were multiple houses like this where players had been told they had housing and got put in here. I was also told there were scholarships but when I got there, apparently there weren’t any for anybody.”

Watson said Wade was mysteriously fired from the program one year after he arrived. The Reynolds Sandbox attempted to contact Wade through online contact forms and social media but did not receive a response for comment.

“Wade was fired for some unknown reason, nobody knows and [Nick Arbelaez] took over,” said Watson. “In the process he screwed over a lot of players, making promises that if they stayed they would get playing time and he would help them get recruited.”

Nick Arbelaez, a new coach for the players interviewed in this story, also did not last long.

From Bad to Worse

Anderson didn’t feel better about his experience with the replacement coach Arbelaez.

“I can’t even explain how bad the experience playing for [Arbelaez] was, especially for two years. The man told my parents he really wanted me for my last year as a sophomore at junior college,” said Anderson. “I had very good offers from top 10 NAIA schools (The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics is a college athletics association for small colleges and universities) asking me to transfer to their teams for my remaining three years I had left playing collegiate soccer in the U.S. but turned them down for him.”

The Reynolds Sandbox contacted Arbelaez for comment through social media platforms but got no response.

Arbelaez left LTCC to coach at Truckee Meadows Community College as a head coach in January of 2019, but left the program before the debut of the season later that year in August right before the season started for “personal reasons” according to a Nevada Sports Net report.

A 2016 team photo with many dashed soccer dreams.

Where Are They Now?

“Both of the soccer coaches you are inquiring about are no longer employed or affiliated with Lake Tahoe Community College,” athletic director Berry wrote to the Reynolds Sandbox. “Neither has had any involvement with our college or our athletic program for multiple years. LTCC’s Athletic Director during the 2014–2016 time period you mention is also no longer working in that capacity,” he wrote.

Wade is seemingly the current head coach of the Redding Royals FC in Redding, California, an amateur soccer club which also offers paid soccer training. Wade was also briefly a TV reality star for the CBS show Survivor.

Anderson returned to Portugal following the end of his collegiate career in the United States.

“I left the US in 2019 to learn the same trade as my dad in the oil services group which he runs and owns his own company called OSG. I recently had an internship with Baker Hughes Tunisia where I learned a lot of lessons with work after school,” said Anderson. “Since then, due to COVID-19, I am planning to join the Royal Marines and make a living off of that since it’s the only career path that I potentially see myself learning skills in life that will take me a long way in the future.”

Watson completed his undergraduate degree and is currently in graduate school working towards a degree to pursue his life goals outside of playing soccer.

Anderson and several of his teammates from his time playing at LTCC.

Investigative Reporting by Alina Croft for the Reynolds Sandbox

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