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Former Town youngster Dodd living the American dream
EIGHT years ago, Nick Dodd was a frustrated man.
A talented footballer, the then 20-year-old had previously been on the books of Swindon at youth level and turned out for the Robins at the Milk Cup, but ultimately, things had not worked out for the central midfielder.
Wanting to take his sporting ambitions further but hamstrung by limited opportunities in the UK, the Shaw resident packed his bags and jetted off to the United States.
There he began a soccer scholarship at the University of North Carolina where he was mentored by Dave Sexton Jnr, son of the former Chelsea coach.
Following a two-year-period during which he played in the Mid-Atlantic District for Junior Universities and reached the national championship, Dodd transferred to California State University.
That switch allowed the ex-Ridgeway School pupil to feature in the Big West Conference and travel all over the United States, while he also played against MLS teams such as Chivas USA and LA Galaxy.
Having graduated in 2010 with a bachelors in communications and public relations, Dodd now plays semi-professionally for Hollywood All-Stars - where he is managed by Wimbledon legend Vinnie Jones - which he combines with a variety of coaching commitments.
The expat is a coach at both Hope International University and the youth academy at Newport Mesa Soccer Club in California, while three years ago he formed a school for private football training, 123 Soccer Training, which is primarily focused on youth players.
On the same day as winning Cal South’s Nike Developmental Coach of the Year award last year, he was hired by LA Galaxy - the former club of David Beckham - to coach in their youth academy.
Understandably, the Newport Beach resident has no regrets about crossing the pond to fulfil his career ambitions.
“As clichéd as it sounds, if you love something you'll sacrifice a lot for it. I wanted to play football and going to America to play and get a degree was a no-brainer,” he said.
“Questions from parents arise like ‘will you work?’ and ‘how will you support yourself?’, but if you research properly and are offered a good enough scholarship, some of these boxes are already ticked.
“There are more than a handful of leagues at colleges and universities that offer sports scholarships, from NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division 1 all the way down to NJCAA, the junior college level.
“The opportunity to acquire a scholarship is in your favour. Choosing the right school for you and applying with a complete application is key.”
Dodd believes there are more opportunities for those sporting talent in the United States than there are in his home country.
He said: “Typically, if an athlete in England hasn't got a professional contract or isn’t in a professional sports career by 18, they will work a 9am-5pm job and play at an amateur level with little further education.
“The US gives those people an extra chance. You study toward a degree and play your desired sport - hopefully on scholarship terms.
“For instance, a football player can be 22 and be selected to play in the MLS with a degree to fall back on. It is rare to turn professional at 22 in England.”
Dodd is very much still an active footballer, last year representing the LA Galaxy Soccer Center futsal team as they lost 4-1 to the US national side.
He is into his third season with Hollywood All-Stars, who play in the Los Angeles Confrontation League and the Santa Monica Division One League.
As well as being managed by Jones, Dodd has played alongside former Chelsea defender Mario Melchiot and ex-Hollyoaks actor Ricky Whittle.
Dodd said: “Vin rarely plays at HASFC, but when he does join in at training you're surprised to see he's actually still got a decent touch on him.
“He runs the training and manages all the games, when he isn't filming. The lads respect him a lot and he always gets us fired up.
“He is just as intimidating on the sidelines as he was on the pitch for Wimbledon. He is very vocal as a manager and demands a lot from us.
“Off the field Vin loves to be a host at his house in Hollywood Hills. After games we go to his for a barbecue and drinks. He is a massive fan of the social side of the All-Stars.”