Tony Tagliafierro's passion for soccer is unmistakable.
The intensity he brings to the game is evident each and every time he takes to the field, and is equally apparent as he makes the move to the coaching realm.
The five year veteran of the Laurentian Voyageurs men's soccer program, now working alongside head coach Carlo Castrechino on the sidelines, joins an energetic core of young soccer coaches in the Sudbury area.
And while the likes of Brian Ashton and Giuseppe Politi are clearly leading the charge, drawing on their own involvement with the game in Northern Ontario and elsewhere, Tagliafierro offers a slightly different background.
The older of two children in the family (younger sister Michelle is also an avid competitive soccer player), Tagliafierro moved, with his family, from North York to Sudbury at the age of thirteen.
As many have suggested in the past, there is a different mindset, when it comes to soccer, in the GTA. "Besides elementary school sports like volleyball and basketball, soccer was all we played growing up," Tagliafierro said, following a recent L.U. soccer practice.
"When I started playing, it was mostly Italians - but I also grew up playing with a large Spanish community," Tagliafierro said. "That was where I learned how to play soccer, with the Spanish kids."
Starting at a very early age, the fundamentals were drilled into the kids with whom Tagliafierro was playing. Just introduced to the North York Azzuri competitive soccer program before he moved north, Tagliafierro recalls, very quickly, garnering an appreciation for the finesse and skill with which the Spaniards approached the "beautiful game".
Earning a spot on a competitive team in Sudbury right from the time of his arrival, Tagliafierro was moving, in more ways than one.
"I was a striker when I lived in Toronto, but when I moved to Sudbury, I started playing midfield," he explained. "Then when I played with a team that really struggled, I started playing defense."
It was here that Tagliafierro came into his own, solidifying the back line of the Laurentian University teams throughout his career with the Voyageurs.
"I enjoyed it, playing out of the back," Tagliafierro said. "I was strong on the ball and very calm." Well, at least as calm as his high intensity personality, once he steps on the soccer pitch, would allow.
The OUA (Ontario University Association) soccer league might have presented the perfect fit. "This university league is different than any other league I have played in," he said.
"It's really something where you have to learn to play and adapt to it. It's a very high-paced, high intensity game, which allows for very little time on the ball."
A big part of the Voyageurs program, Tagliafierro expanded not only his soccer knowledge, but also opened doors through which he could share his love of the game.
"With Laurentian, we try and volunteer with some of the soccer camps," he said. "I really enjoy doing those - I enjoy giving back."
"I enjoy working with young kids, I enjoy working with kids who are inexperienced, but want to learn more." But Tagliafierro has, very quickly, moved to cover a wide spectrum of soccer coaching opportunities.
He has worked with Ashton with the Regional Program, worked with Castrechino with the Voyageurs, and worked and learned from the likes of Jeff Falcioni, Rob Gallo, Politi and others along the way.
"Working with Brian (Ashton) is incredible," Tagliafierro said. "I've learned so much. Just little things that I have learned about the game, that I would never have thought to use or apply in a game situation."
"Brian just thinks further outside the box than most everyone else," Tagliafierro said with a smile. Still, he is quick to acknowledge the contribution of all those who have taken the humble young man under their wing.
"Each one of them brings their own strengths to the team," he said. ""You're trying to take the best from each of them and create your own style off of that."
Similarly, Tagliafierro notes his own weaknesses, acknowledging that there remains plenty of room for growth and development, within the coaching reign, as he moves forward.
The Sudbury soccer community is simply thankful that movement is happening here.