Family, soccer and the San Fernando Valley all play large roles in the success of Matador men’s soccer star Willie Sims, who is confident that his time at CSUN has had a positive affect on his life.
“It’s made me a better person all around,” said Sims of his experience at Northridge. “I wake up every morning and look forward to being around my friends (and) my family. It is like a wake-up call. You’ve done certain things in the past, but now you look at it differently.”
The 5-foot-9 Sims was born in Guatemala and during his childhood watched his father play professional soccer. Sims’ father played until a meniscus tear ended his career, forcing him to give up the sport.
Sims’ father then moved six-year-old Sims and his family to Los Angeles, primarily with hopes of a better life for his family.
Sims started playing soccer at Reseda High School in 1998, though he spent much of his freshman year on the bench watching his teammates win the West Valley League title in 1999, its fourth in the 90s before losing in the California Interscholastic Federation semifinals to El Camino Real on penalty kicks.
“It was a great freshman year,” said Sims. “I got to watch great players play in front of me.”
Sims excelled his last three years at Reseda. In his junior year, Sims broke the school record by scoring 33 goals, earning him all-league and all-city honors. Sims played his last year as a team captain.
Sims graduated from Reseda High School in 2002, and chose Northridge mainly because the school was in the San Fernando Valley, giving him the opportunity to play closer to his home and family.
“I grew up around this city,” Sims said. “My hometown was South Central, but I came to high school in the Valley. I played club soccer in the Valley and all my friends lived out here, so there was not much adjustment, (except) living on my own without my Mom. I used to be with my Mom all the time, but now being here, playing the sport, going too school, it makes it tough to go back home sometimes.”
Still, there are adjustments to be made, even though most of Sims’ adjustments were made on the soccer field. One key modification Sims had to make was the grind that came with being a Division I soccer player.
“Coming out of playing club soccer and high school – I needed to get more fit,” Sims said.
Sims also made the adjustment to become more of a team player at CSUN, contributing in other areas of the game aside from scoring goals that has helped the team win.
“I used to be the main guy, the go-to guy, and it’s the same thing here,” Sims said. “But in order for the team to get better, I had to pass the ball more, get the team involved and (be) more coachable, (rather) then just the guy carrying the team.”
Head coach Terry Davila coached Sims during his freshman year at Reseda before accepting the CSUN job.
“Willie is a super athlete,” Davila said. “He thinks he can take on the world.”
Sims was a redshirt-freshman in the 2002 season, but in 2003 he led the Matadors with 11 goals, 54 shot attempts and 30 points. He was also tied for a team-high eight assists, earning him the Big West Co-offensive Player of the Year award, freshman of the year and a spot on the all-conference first team.
In 2004, Sims placed second in the Big West in goals (16) and points (34). Sims also proved to be a clutch player, scoring game-winning goals in six matches and recording three penalty kick goals.
Sims, however, had to overcome adversity this past March, when he was involved in a car accident. The accident occurred on the intersection of Balboa Boulevard and Parthenia Street the morning of Mar. 6, 2005, the day of CSUN’s alumni game.
Sims was driving with his girlfriend, crossing Parthenia on a green light, when the other car ran a red light and hit Sims’ car on the driver’s side. Both cars flipped over, knocking Sims and his girlfriend unconscious.
Sims and his girlfriend suffered minor head injuries and migraine headaches, lasting a week. The accident gave Sims a new perspective on life.
“I woke up, I got conscious, she was good, I was good, I got out alive, and I just looked at it (in) a different point of view,” Sims said. “I got another opportunity to do better things with my life.”
After recovering from the accident, Sims got off to an intrepid start in 2005, scoring two goals in a two-minute span and assisting the first goal of the game. Sims also scored three goals against UNLV in the Oregon State Tournament. Sims has scored eight goals and has 18 points, but saw his season temporarily interrupted on Oct. 8 during the Matadors’ showdown with Big West Conference rival UC Santa Barbara at Harder Stadium. Sims suffered a slight knee sprain in the eighth minute, forcing him to leave the game. He did not return and the Matadors settled for a grueling 2-2 tie with the Gauchos.
“It’s the hardest thing to do,” Sims said. “Everybody’s pumped up, your adrenaline’s going and you’ve been preparing during the season to play our rival and to sit out for a game – that (was) like the biggest game. You’re up 1-0 and two minutes later can’t play – its tough.”
Sims has missed the last four games, including a home game against UCLA on Oct. 14 that ended in a scoreless tie. Sims hopes to come back as early as Oct. 26 when CSUN travels to Cal Poly to face the Mustangs.
“It’s a daily basis,” Sims said of his rehabilitation. “We’ll see how my knee feels.”
Davila has had players step up in Sims’ absence, but he values the threat of his star-forward on the field.
“Willie gives us unpredictability,” Davila said. “I’d rather have him in the lineup than out of it.”
Sims will have one more year to play at CSUN, but after his collegiate eligibility is over, he would like to follow in his father’s footsteps and play professionally.
“That would be my ultimate goal,” Sims said. “That’s what I’ve been dreaming (of) ever since I was a little kid.”
Though Sims would be willing to play overseas, he said he would like to play in Major League Soccer.
“I would play anywhere,” Sims said. “If I get a shot here, I would do it.”
Ivan Yeo can be reached at email@example.com.