By Shirley Otto
Former 1996 Boys ODP Administrator
I am sure the North Texas Soccer ODP program has swept generations, but this is one that happened in my lifetime.
This is a story about a father who entered the program as a boy and reaped its many rewards. Now, he is sending his son down the same road, hoping for him to earn some of the same opportunities that he was afforded.
These days, the dad is known as Coach Dominic Schell, but to others he was known as a recreational player, a competitive player, a high school player, a team captain, a collegiate player, a semi-pro player and a pro player, and was recently a Dallas Sidekick. Schell has been known to many by several different titles. If you were to ask him which one benefited him the most in his life, it would be a hard question to answer, but he would say that the Olympic Development Program of North Texas Soccer was a critical part of his history.
Schell started out on a recreational team coached by his mom. They played locally in a league in his hometown of Garland. The top team in the league, they were eventually asked to move up to the competitive league in Plano. The team once again took the top spots in the Plano Premier League, before moving into the Dallas Chamber Classic League, where they started in Division 2 (there was no Division 3 at this time).
While playing in this league, Schell’s mom learned about the Olympic Development Program of North Texas Soccer. Schell tried out, and made the ODP pool. From there, he was invited to attend events as a player on the State, Regional and, eventually, even ODP National Teams.
While all this was going on, Schell continued to play soccer for his club and high school soccer teams, and his high school football team. Schell, in fact, enjoyed soccer and football so much that he did not put his full attention to his school studies. He did what most do — “just enough to get by.” Schell would soon learn his lesson, but would it be too late? For now, he was on an athletic high. His club soccer team was winning all their games, his high school football team had gone to state and his high school soccer team was about to join them. “With all of this athletic recognition,” he thought, “Who needs good grades?”
Well, there Schell was in his senior year, with recruiters contacting him and asking about his grades, but alas, all he could give them was his 2.5 GPA, and coaches did not want that. They wanted someone who could do the work and play the game. Schell did not appear to be this person, but they had a hard time walking away considering all that he had accomplished. Here was a kid that had progressed to the national pool of ODP, played in a state competition with his high school soccer team and his high school football team. But those average grades — they just could not get past them.
Schell was determined to find a way to get his college paid for; being one of five kids, his family was not going to be able to pay for his education. With his resume, coaches kept contacting him ,but the grades kept them from offering any kind of contract. One coach, though, recalled Dominic traveling to England with the ODP regional team and scoring two goals and two assists in three games. So Schell did some fast talking and told the coach that if he would give him half a year scholarship, he would pull up his GPA. The coach agreed, adding that if Schell was able to pull up his GPA past a 3.0 in the first six months, they would give him the second half of his first year and the other three years of scholarship — but only because his accomplishments on the field were so great.
Thus it was that four years later, Schell left the University of Mobile as an All-American, NAIA All-Conference, GCAC Player of the Year, and a West Team All-Star. His GPA? 3.5.
In early 2000, Schell left college in his senior year and went into the pro draft, where he was selected in the fifth round by the Columbus Crew. He played for various pro teams, married, and in 2003 welcomed a son, Kaden. Schell and his family settled down in the Dallas area and Schell began coaching local recreational and select teams. Schell also played in a North Texas amateur league with a team founded by his brother, Michael, called Dallas Roma FC.
In 2006, Dallas Roma FC won the top bracket in the amateur league and was invited into the Lamar Hunt Open Cup. The team remarkably advanced to the third round, beating Chivas USA before eventually losing to the L.A. Galaxy.
Looking back on Schell’s accomplishments, he realizes the importance of the North Texas Soccer ODP Program in his early years. It was an integral part of everything that he has accomplished. Now, his son Kaden is setting out to make his way in the soccer world with his dad by his side. The difference with Kaden is that Dominic now knows what is needed to succeed in soccer, and stresses the importance of hard work both on the field and in the classroom.