When Andreas Lindberg accepted the offer to coach the Seton Hall University men’s soccer team in December 2017, it would have been fair to assume that his involvement with the Southampton Soccer Club — the community-based youth soccer program started by club president Tim Rumph in 1997 — would be significantly diminished, if not eliminated entirely.
Making the step up from coaching at Division II C.W. Post (Long Island University) to an out-of-state Division I program that plays in a major conference, the Big East, meant a bigger time commitment, not only in terms of coaching and commuting from his East Quogue home, but also with more extensive recruiting responsibilities.
But the same pure love for the game of soccer that helped Lindberg build the kind of resume that attracted Seton Hall’s attention — a 139-30-15 record over 12 years of coaching, three at his alma mater, Southampton College, and nine at Post — is what keeps him dedicated to fostering that same kind of passion for the game in local East End children as young as three.
Lindberg’s devotion to growing the game in his hometown has not gone unnoticed, and in November, he was honored at the inaugural Spirit of Youth Sports Awards, hosted by the WVI (Wealth and Values Initiative) Dolphin Foundation. The nonprofit organization started the awards dinner this year as a fundraiser for its Sports For Good program, which allows for grants to be made to individuals, teams, events, leagues, programs, or organizations in need, according to organizers from the foundation.
At the awards dinner, hosted by National Hockey League Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine at the Residence Inn by Marriott in Riverhead, Lindberg was chosen as one of its recipients in an effort to recognize “leaders of Long Island sports leagues and organizations who have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to using sports to improve our communities and to enrich the lives of boys and girls in their charge,” according to the WVI Dolphin Foundation website.
Lindberg joined the Southampton Soccer Club in 2007 and has been its executive director for years. He is proud of what he and his colleagues, collaborators and other coaches that have been with him for a long time have built with the club, and he has plenty of reasons for wanting to assure that it continues to grow and thrive — not the least of which is that he is the father to two children, Blake, 5, and Maxim, who is 18 months old, with whom he is already sharing his love of soccer.
Over the years, he has seen countless examples of the difference the club has made in the lives of many children in the area, from East Hampton to Westhampton Beach and everywhere in between, and he wants that to continue.
He cited players who went on to have successful high school and even collegiate careers, and is proud of the fact that many of them are eager to return and volunteer as coaches within the club, with some even going on to work for the club as coaches on a full-time or part-time basis. The club has always provided scholarships for families who may need financial assistance, and that support has been crucial for many players.
Dividing time between coaching a college team in New Jersey and running a youth soccer club in his hometown can be challenging, Lindberg admitted, but he can’t imagine life any other way.
“I’m a community guy,” he said. “To me, that’s what I’m most proud about.”
Lindberg cited several examples of successes over the years that have made him proud. Seeing players like Jesse Scanlon, a 2016 graduate of Southampton High School who led the Mariners soccer team to its first ever Suffolk County and Long Island Championships, now in his senior year as a player for Dartmouth.
In July, the club brought several players to Lindberg’s native Sweden to compete in the Gothia Cup, which he described as the World Cup of youth soccer. It’s a trip he hopes becomes a tradition for the club, with more and more teams attending on an every-other-year-basis.
Lindberg can be found running anywhere from six to eight clinics on weekends during the collegiate offseason, but he also gave credit to his support team for helping him keep it all running smoothly, particularly when he’s busy during the college season. He mentioned his wife, Lina Lindberg, who he said is fully supportive of the intense time commitment, and added that his director of coaching, Gary Easlick, has increased his role with the club in recent years, something Bob Montgomery, one of the club’s staff coaches, has done as well.
Chasing a high-profile coaching career was never a stated goal for Lindberg, even in recent years. He emigrated to the United States in 1998, playing forward for the Southampton College men’s soccer team, graduating in 2002.
At that time, Lindberg had his sights firmly set on another goal: becoming a professional soccer player. Ultimately, that dream fell by the wayside when Lindberg said he realized he “wasn’t good enough.”
He soon found that he could derive the same level of joy and fulfillment from coaching, and he admits he gets just as much joy from coaching a high-profile college team as he does teaching young players at the beginning of their soccer careers.
“I get so much out of going to those clinics on Sunday mornings and seeing boys and girls who love to play,” he said. “That, to me, is what it’s all about.”
Lindberg coached the Colonials men’s team from 2002-2005, and eventually became head coach of the men’s soccer team at Post, a job he held from 2009-2017. He turned the Pioneers into a Division II powerhouse, consistently ranked in the top 10 in the country and making deep runs in the NCAA Division II tournament, successfully recruiting both local talent and standouts from overseas, including countries like England, Sweden and Denmark. After his ninth season there, he was approached by officials at Seton Hall, who offered him the head coaching position.
Lindberg says that part of the reason he loves his role at Seton Hall is because it enables him to run a big-time program without having to give up his role in the community club he’s built and run for so long.
“If I can do all these things, it’s a great fit,” he said.
Evidence of the strength and success of the club can most easily be found in its continued growth and the ever increasing number of boys and girls from the East End who participate in the programs, from clinics to travel teams. The fact that local high school teams have seen success in recent years would seem to be evidence of a carry-over effect, although Lindberg stopped short of taking full credit for the success of area varsity teams.
Spoken like a coach, Lindberg said it has been a team effort, and that good synergy between like-minded soccer enthusiasts has been the key.
“It’s about surrounding ourselves with good people, and the consistency of [Tim Rumph] as president,” he said. “He’s got a sound attitude about how to run it, and between myself and the staff we have, it’s all good people. We keep saying it all the time, but you have to surround yourself with good people, even more than just having great coaches. And we have both. And we have good relationships with the high school coaches. When the kids come up to that level, they have a good soccer background.”
As the club has grown and added more teams, and more elite teams that compete at higher levels, Lindberg says he has seen players come from as far away as Manorville and the North Fork to play on the team.
Two of the boys teams in the club — the 2005 team and the 2003 team — qualified to play in the National Premier League, a prestigious honor which is not easy to achieve. Those teams include players from Westhampton, Southampton and Hampton Bays.
That kind of growth has enabled homegrown talents with a bright future in the sport beyond high school to play closer to home instead of traveling long distances to western Long Island to compete on a team that fits their skill level, which was not the case until just a few years ago.
Lindberg cited several players as examples: Tim Rumph’s son, Karl Rumph, who played at UConn, and Southampton graduate Matias Ruiz, who played for Post and then pursued a pro career for a few years, for example, who both played on travel teams based near New York City during their high school days. By contrast, more recent standouts like Scanlon and fellow Southampton graduate Gianluca Santacruz (who also played at Post), were able to stay within the club.
“They played with Southampton Soccer Club from the time they were 6 until they were 16,” Lindberg said. “They never had to leave. That’s the perfect example of what we want to do.”
What makes him most proud, Lindberg said, is not just seeing former club players succeed at the high school and collegiate level, but seeing them on a regular basis even after their playing days are over. He mentioned East Hampton graduate Andrew Wilson, who is now his team manager at Seton Hall, as an example.
“He’s in his early 20s and still comes back,” he said. “That’s what I’m most proud of, that connection.”