At NTX Soccer, we strive to inspire players of all ages and levels to achieve their best, both on and off the field. Today, we’re highlighting a previous NTX Soccer player and ODP alum who reminds us that with hard work, determination and support, anything is possible. Meet Kaleem Shabout!
KALEEM’S SOCCER START
Born and raised in Irving, Texas, Kaleem fell in love with soccer by watching his big brother’s games and practices. Often, Kaleem could be found kicking the soccer ball on the sidelines with his brother’s teammates whenever they had a moment to spare. It wasn’t long before Kaleem enrolled in Soccer Tots and began building skills of his own.
Kaleem played recreational soccer until 6 years old, then transitioned to club soccer. He experienced multiple State Cup championships, played in the Dallas Cup, traveled nationally and internationally for tournaments and even contributed to a team of USYS National Championship Finalists in 2019.
THE ODP EXPERIENCE
In 2012, Kaleem attended tryouts for the North Texas Soccer Olympic Development Program, an environment designed to develop player talent through competitive training and expose them to next-level opportunities like college recruitment. Kaleem was only able to attend one tryout because of a wedding in Canada, so the pressure was high – but he made the cut and was chosen for ODP.
“ODP was great since I was coached by different coaches and was able to learn different things from each. It allowed me to play against top talent in North Texas and Region III (South Region), developing me as a player,” shared Kaleem. “I learned to work extra hard to make it to the top in a pool of such excellent players. I learned how to focus and compete.”
During ODP, Kaleem also explored a new position, furthering developing his game.
“I was always a Defensive Center Mid in my club team, but my ODP coach thought I was great as a Center Back. Playing in a different position really unleashed me.”
Kaleem put in the work, became a team captain, and even made the Regional Team from 2015-2019. He treasured the ODP atmosphere as one that remained fun and communal, while still challenging him to grow.
“I loved playing locally with teammates I’m so used to playing against. Making it to Regional Camp was a special memory. We had an evening where we all traded shirts, so I have many shirts from other players in Region III. I also played with some players who are now professionals, and love to say I met them in ODP,” Kaleem said.
COLLEGE AND PRO PLAY
Kaleem got to know many college coaches through ODP as they came to work with players at the Regional Camp. He gained exposure to coaches who scouted ODP events, including the FCD Showcase and the ODP Interregionals. Sometimes, Kaleem would reach out to coaches personally – other times, his coaches would invite their colleagues to come see his skills, or coaches would contact him after seeing him in a match.
When it was time to choose a college, many D1, D2 and D3 schools reached out to Kaleem, including High Point, The Naval Academy, Coastal Carolina, Elon and others. He received a lot of interest from UNC Asheville, a program based in North Carolina, where Kaleem had played many National League games. The coach of UNC-A was familiar with ODP, because his own son participated in it. Kaleem was excited about the program and school and joined UNC-A for his freshman year, playing almost every minute of every game.
When Kaleem’s coach left UNC-A and he sought a more challenging program, he transferred to Coastal Carolina, since he already had connections with them from the scouting season. He had a great experience there until COVID-19 cut the season short, so he returned to Dallas to play with Foro in the UPSL, making connections with a coach from Madrid.
In December of 2020, Kaleem’s previous Foro coach invited him to come on a 3 week trial to play with CD Leganes and one other team in Spain. He arrived to Madrid during a record snowfall, requiring him to wait for 10 days for his tryout! Though Kaleem was nervous, he persevered and eventually was able to train and scrimmage with the team on their training fields, as COVID had closed down the main facilities. Ultimately the trial with CD Leganes was a success, as he landed a contract with their U21 side, with hopes of cracking into the first team someday soon!
KALEEM’S ADVICE FOR PLAYERS
“Everyone has a different path to get to their goal. Just follow what you think is right for you. I was told so often that the DA was the only way – but hard work, good contacts and doing what’s best in your situation is what’s important to reach your dream,” shared Kaleem. “Enjoy all sports if you can.”
What’s next for Kaleem? He hopes to continue advancing his soccer career and someday meet Liverpool player Van Dyke.