Indy Eleven coach: Team, game 'bigger than one community'

August 1, 2013
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Indiana University soccer standout Juergen Sommer traveled the globe as a professional athlete before hanging up his cleats more than a decade ago and “retiring” to Carmel with his wife and young sons.

He put his economics degree to use in the corporate world, selling medical devices and commercial real estate before returning to pro sports this summer.

juergen sommer mugSommer

Now the 44-year-old is helping to build Indianapolis’ newest team as head coach and director of soccer operations at Indy Eleven, which opens play in the North American Soccer League next spring.

“We got to the point that we wanted to find a home,” he said of the 2002 decision to settle in Carmel, close to his wife’s hometown of Greenwood.

Born in New York City and raised in Naples, Fla., by German immigrants who ran a deli, a teenaged Sommer attended summer camp at Culver Academies in northern Indiana, then returned for high school.

He joined the IU soccer team as a walk-on and ended up the starting goalkeeper on its 1988 national championship team. He represented the United States on two World Cup teams and played in England and Italy before returning to play Major League Soccer stateside.

Sommer maintained his connections to the sport after retiring, serving on the U.S. Soccer Federation’s Athletes Council and the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s board of directors. He cut his coaching teeth at the Carmel Dad’s Club and sharpened them during stints as an assistant at IU and goalkeeper coach for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

So when team leaders kicked off their search for Indy Eleven’s first coach, they didn’t have to look far to find their man. (Of course, that didn’t stop resumes from pouring in from around the world.)

President and General Manager Peter Wilt said Sommer was the team’s first choice, in part because of his Indiana connections.

“Juergen’s knowledge, leadership, experience, connections and vision all are superb and in line with the qualities needed to make Indy Eleven successful,” he said in a June statement.

His local network already has delivered. When two Haitian players expressed interest in coming to recent team tryouts, for example, Sommer contacted a neighbor who does missionary work in Haiti for help finding a host family to make them feel welcome.

“It’s a good way to keep them grounded and educate them about our city and our culture,” Sommer said, drawing on his experience living overseas. “I didn’t have to ask twice. The support is there.”

Case in point: this week’s soccer extravaganza at Lucas Oil Stadium, which is expected to attract more than 40,000 fans for a match between two powerhouse international teams.

Indy Eleven won’t start playing until April, after Sommer and his coaching team assembles a roster. They’re hosted two rounds of tryouts so far—the most recent just last week.

Although the team is expected to play in downtown Indianapolis, Sommer said leaders are considering Hamilton County among the possible sites for a practice facility.

Despite its Indy-centric name, Sommer expects Indy Eleven to draw fans—and players and, yes, staff—from throughout central and beyond.

“The game and the team are bigger than one community,” he said.

Sommer and his wife, Susie Prall, have two sons. Tommy, 14, plays travel baseball for the Indiana Bulls. Noah, 11, is active in Westfield Youth Soccer.
 
“We’ve traveled all over the world,” Sommer said. “It’s good to be home.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this blog

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
  1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

  2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

  3. I was just watching an AOW race from cleveland in 1997...in addition to the 65K for the race, there were more people in boats watching that race from the lake than were IndyCar fans watching the 2014 IndyCar season finale in the Fontana grandstands. Just sayin...That's some resurgence modern IndyCar has going. Almost profitable, nobody in the grandstands and TV ratings dropping 61% at some tracks in the series. Business model..."CRAZY" as said by a NASCAR track general manager. Yup, this thing is purring like a cat! Sponsors...send them your cash, pronto!!! LOL, not a chance.

  4. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  5. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............

ADVERTISEMENT