Coach Tet and Coach Omar. Photo by Kate Hampson
Tet is an Oakland Program Coordinator and the Head Coach of the U19 Boys team at Oakland International High School. In his tenure with SWB, Tet has also head-coached the U14, U16, U17 Boys and U14 Girls. His commanding presence, infectious laugh and soccer knowledge – not to mention his unmatched ball control on the pitch-make him a pillar of the Oakland Program. I had the chance to sit down with him and ask him a few questions.
Where are you from and how did you come to Oakland?
I was born in Thailand. I came to Oakland in August, 2000 in a refugee resettlement program through the International Rescue Committee.
When did you start playing soccer?
I started playing soccer when I was five at Meh Lah Camp, the refugee camp that I was living on. It is on the border of Burma and Thailand.
How did you get involved with Soccer Without Borders?
My cousin introduced me to Soccer Without Borders by taking me to the SWB’s 2008 Oakland Refugee Community Soccer Camp. I got involved in 2009 through a high school summer internship program that partnered with Soccer Without Borders. After my internship ended, I continued to volunteer with an SWB team three or four days a week. I worked my way up to an assistant-coaching position that had a stipend while I was still a student. In 2012, I attended a coaching institute in Boston and became the head coach of the U14 and U16 Boys teams. My position started to grow as the years went by. I went away to college in 2016, and came back after graduating and was offered a program coordinator position in the Oakland office.
You’ve been involved for almost 10 years. What motivates you to continue your work with Soccer Without Borders?
Oh, The kids. For sure. Being able to give back to the kids that are growing up in the same situation that I was in, and being that male role that I never had growing up. I see a lot of myself in the participants. The team of coaches also motivates me. I don’t call us staff, because we are more of a team. There is this family culture that we have that makes this job so rewarding.
What advice to you have for new SWB Coaches?
Try to support the existing norms and practices of SWB, and learn from them. It is really important to start by being humble and learning from the program and participants. I’d also tell them to be real with the kids from the beginning. Have goals for your participants and hold them to the standards that you know they can maintain. Because that is, ultimately, what will be best for them.