Tyler Weiss led the Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School boys’ soccer team to its first-ever Public League championship on Oct. 27 in his first year of coaching the team.
The 26-year-old Aussie coach has two decades of soccer experience under his belt, including coaching Team Israel in the Philadelphia International Unity Cup in fall 2021 and competing in the 2011 JCC Maccabi Games, where he was selected as one of the 18 players to be part of the U.S. contingent for the international games held in Israel. Team USA made it to the finals, but lost to Team Israel. (Weiss joked that the referees were clearly biased.)
Since November, Weiss, now a Fishtown resident, has coached the United Philly Soccer Club, where many of his Masterman players compete. The club is one of the few in the country that isn’t pay-to-play, eliminating the cost barrier for young students to play in a competitive league year-round.
For Weiss, coaching for the club not only allows him to do what he loves during the Public League’s off season, but it also helps out the underdog — something Weiss has been keen to do throughout his coaching career.
What’s the Jewish community like in Australia?
My family has a really interesting background. My grandmother was actually born [in Austria] on the run during the Holocaust. Her parents were in line to be shot, and they ran. My grandmother was born literally in the forest.
They ended up in a boat and ended up in northern Australia — Darwin, Australia — and worked their way from Darwin to the outskirts of Melbourne.
Are there a lot of Jewish Holocaust refugees in Australia?
Yeah, there really are. In Australia, it’s a much closer-knit Jewish community than in America. Most Jews know each other. I think there’s actually a similarly sized Jewish community in Philadelphia.
What are some Jewish traditions in Australia that do not exist at all in the U.S. or vice versa?
Every Jewish holiday [in Australia], you’re home with your family, and you’ll have 100 people at a Passover seder, at break-fast. I wouldn’t say that’s common here because people move away, or they marry someone on the other side of the country; they keep splitting, keep splintering.
We have services; we sit down and do the prayers. For them, they’ll sit down and do the prayers and then go outside and dance. We’re a lot more traditional here. We really try to connect to the old traditions. In Australia, it’s a different mindset.
In Australia, do they call it soccer or football?
They call it soccer! They have their own football called Aussie rules football. It’s not rugby — I’ll just say that now.
How did you become interested in soccer?
Honestly, just like most children: their parents put them into 10 different sports and see what they enjoyed. Soccer was always something I was good at and enjoyed.
I also got fortunate; I got really good coaches for soccer. Maybe that was it — out of the 10 coaches I had, the soccer coach was the one I connected with most. I still talk to him. His name is Coach Bill.
I started to watch soccer a little bit more, and I think my passion went from not just playing the sport, but to the actual sport, the ins and outs, the tactics, the players, the teams. And I think that was a real eye-opener to make me fall in love with the sport — not just to play the sport, but to actually have this intrinsic love of the sport.
What has been your biggest accomplishment as a coach so far?
It’s winning the Public League championship. That was my first major coaching trophy.
I think imposter syndrome is real. This was the first, real time that I thought, maybe … I’m not just here saying things into the void. Maybe I have some actual ability to change and improve and to grow as a coach.
Where does your interest in helping out the underdog come from?
As a Jewish athlete, you hear all the time, the stereotypical ‘Jews can’t be athletes.’
Growing up, I came from Central Pennsylvania, where it’s hard to be a top academic, but then I went to a top academic school and won a business scholarship. I’ve always been the underdog, always played for the underdog.
Who’s a Jewish athlete whom you look up to?
Obviously, he’s a soccer player. His name is Yossi Benayoun. He was the Israeli captain for the national team. But he was the first Israeli to play high-level soccer in the Premier League, first at Liverpool [Football Club] and then for my favorite team, Chelsea [F.C].
Just watching him growing up, I was like, ‘Oh my God, he’s breaking all the boundaries, breaking all these barriers.’