Bradford Wolves Soccer Club coach David Lontini has been a soccer referee and coach for over two decades now and takes great pride in providing kids with an opportunity to reach professional levels.
A father of three girls, Lontini and his wife Corinna moved to Bradford roughly eight years ago from the city of Toronto. Lontini is a contractor in construction and sets his own hours so that he can make time for his true passion in life – soccer!
When Lontini was just a young boy, he would watch soccer with his dad every week, cheering for their favourite team – Inter Milan. Lontini credits his father for introducing him to the game, who even took him to watch the soccer clubs play at the Varsity Stadium in the city.
Growing up, Lontini spent much of his time watching his older brother play soccer, but due to a heart condition called ASD (Atrial Septal Defect) - a congenital defect characterized by a hole in the wall of the heart - Lontini was unable to play any sports as he would often encounter difficulties breathing.
“I was always around my brother – watching him practice and play – it sucked that I couldn’t play, I just couldn’t keep up,” says Lontini. “I still wanted to be connected to the game… so this sparked me to get into coaching.”
Lontini began volunteering as a hockey coach in his late teens/early 20s in Toronto, but still wanted to be involved with soccer.
He joined the York Region Soccer Association in 2001 and was a referee for four years. During that time, he was put on a ‘fast track’ program to become a professional referee with FIFA (Federation International Football Association) but just as quickly as his dreams were coming to fruition, Lontini was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2007.
“I had to stop coaching and refereeing altogether… I quit everything,” remembers Lontini, adding that he was supposed to travel to Africa for referee training. “I was just about to start the fitness testing [and then] I got sick.”
Lontini was officially diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and started chemotherapy and radiation treatments immediately. Less than five years later, Lontini beat his battle with the disease, prompting him and his family to relocate to Bradford in 2013 for a fresh start.
Lontini jumped right back into coaching and began working with the Bradford Eagles soccer team. During that time, Lontini noticed a need for more opportunity for the players to extend their talents beyond their practices. He made the bold move to start his own soccer club in 2017, originally called the Bradford United Soccer Academy which was eventually merged with the Bradford Wolves Soccer Club.
“We started with just four kids, and now we have over 150 kids," said Lontini. “I feel like the boys are my kids – I’m attached to them. I enjoy watching them play… it’s fun!”
Lontini shares that it has always been his dream and goal to coach kids’ soccer and provide them with an opportunity to go to the ‘pro level’. Upon amalgamating United Soccer with the Bradford Wolves, Lontini used his strong connections with the Toronto Soccer Club (TFC) to have players recruited.
“Since the academy started, five of our players have already been recruited to try out with professional experience and three of them have been signed on with the Toronto Soccer Club,” notes Lontini.
Lontini volunteers all of his time to help nurture the talents of the younger generation and feels ‘it’s all worth it to put together’. He also manages the Bradford Wolves website, takes care of all registrations, sets up all times on the fields (with help from his partner, Rob Pagliaroli) and arranges professional club scouts to come and watch the players.
The recruiting process occurs during a ten-week block through the Toronto FC and is timed in conjunction with the Bradford Wolves program, typically twice a year during the fall and spring.
“It takes hours of time to put [everything] together because if I don’t, I feel like I’m letting the kids down,” shares Lontini. “It feels good to see them get asked to compete and show the parents that what [the kids] are doing is actually amazing!”
Lontini adds that there are several different scholarships available for the players and by giving the youth this level of exposure, it can make a significant impact on the rest of their lives.
“If you don’t put them in front of the people that make those decisions, they are never going to get noticed,” expresses Lontini.
Currently, Lontini and Pagliaroli split the youth into two age brackets: 4–6 year olds (introduction program) and 7 – 13 year olds (youth program). Teens over the age of 13 play on a more competitive level which then leads into the men’s leagues.
“With the Toronto FC, we continue to build a path for the summer ahead,” says Lontini. “The plan is by the end of February/beginning of March to get back on the field and continue the youth program. Once spring hits, then the kids can play outside and get into the leagues.”
The soccer club hosts their indoor practices at the Bradford Sports Dome on 10th Sideroad, and once the weather gets nicer the players will resume games at their home field (Cericola Field, beside the Bradford Curling Club).
“The club is growing and looking to open up more opportunities from the youngest level to most competitive,” adds Lontini. “We’re trying to grow our girls youth program right now.”
Entry level into the soccer programs with the Bradford Wolves are 10 weeks long and come with all soccer gear supplied by the association except shin pads and shoes.
For more information about the Bradford Wolves Soccer program, visit: www.bradfordwolves.com