Bend it Like Benditson

If you've ever attended a Lady Corsair soccer game at Santa Monica College, you would be quick to notice the energetic head coach adorned in Corsair black and blue pacing the sidelines, yelling encouragement and coaching adjustments to his players. While you might not know him personally, Lady Corsairs Head Coach Aaron Benditson's background is richly engrained with soccer, the sport he has been passionate about since his childhood.

Benditson, 29, attributes his passion for soccer to his father. While in his 20s, Benditson's father backpacked throughout Europe, where at one point he went to watch the Liverpool Football Club play in England.

The atmosphere of the game, a product of the excessive fandom of European soccer and the energy of the game overseas, led Benditson's father to encourage his two sons to play the sport once they were old enough.

Benditson says that his close relationship with his family only fuels his love for soccer, as his family still likes coming to his games. He and his father often watch the big games on Saturday and Sunday, talking about soccer, hanging out, and analyzing games.

Benditson's younger brother Benjamin went on to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy for a two-year stint from 2005 to 2006, where he won a Major League Soccer Cup in 2005.

When asked about his brother's success, Benditson laughs. "Well, being younger, he always had to compete with me," he said.

Benditson spent his early years living in Oak Park, Calif., where he attended Oak Park High School, playing soccer for four years. Receiving a full scholarship to Sacramento State University for soccer, Benditson transferred after his first year to Cal State Northridge, where he was able to use his three additional years of National Collegiate Athletic Association eligibility and to finish up his four years of schooling.

He graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology in 2001, turning down offers to play overseas. Benditson says that while he experimented with other sports such as track, soccer was always a constant, whether playing in recreational leagues or club play.

During his time at CSUN, Benditson was offered a high school coaching job at Harvard-Westlake High School, where he worked as the girl's soccer assistant head coach from 1999 to 2000.

Benditson then spent two years away from soccer, focusing on careers and living a 9-5 job. However, the time away from soccer led to what Benditson said was "the most miserable time of my life." When a friend coaching a U-11 boys team needed an assistant coach, Benditson was quick to take up the opportunity.

Two years later, Benditson became the head coach of the U-13 team when after a year, he was contacted by former SMC athletic director Rhonda Hyatt. Hyatt, who had been the assistant athletic director at CSUN during Benditson's college play, offered the head coaching position to Benditson, who has been the Lady Corsairs soccer coach since 2005.

Once Benditson took the head coaching position, one of his first moves was selecting his coaching staff. He offered Timothy Pierce the assistant coaching position and made former interim coach Patrick Seymour his goalie coach.

"Every year gives you different obstacles and different challenges. More and more, dealing in team athletics, the hardest challenge for me is to get a collective group of individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds to understand what it means to be on this team. While understanding teamwork is important, I want the girls at the same time to bring individuality to benefit the team," said Benditson.

Benditson has also recently started pursuing his master 's degree in sports administration and coaching at Concordia University. His passion for the SMC Lady Corsairs soccer team is second to none, and as he puts it, "if the passion dies, the program dies."

Benditson says he expects back around 13 or 14 players from this year's roster, a detail even more astonishing given that the 20-player roster is losing a handful of important sophomore players.

"There's just so much more to this program than just soccer. It's a life map for all the different things that they would experience in their lives. It's about adversity, following through with individual and team goals... just teaching them foundation and laying it out. It's about seeing the kids grow and gain self-confidence," said Benditson.