Desperito’s Feel-Good Comeback Story
If someone would have asked Anthony Desperito if he would be back playing soccer in his college career two years ago, he would not have had an answer for you. After playing his freshman year here at Lynn University, he decided to leave the sport he loves the most to concentrate on school. In the following two years, he found some amazing opportunities to come back to the game of soccer; this is his feel-good comeback story.
A native of Bayport, N.Y., Desperito may be one of the hardest workers you will ever meet as he was taught that life lesson at an early age by his parents Andy and Laura. His dad also introduced him to soccer at an early age where he grew to play through high school at St. John the Baptist Diocesan. While with the Cougars, he was a four-year letterwinner , compiling 13 goals, 17 assists and 43 points in his career and also receiving all-academic and all-league recognition as a senior.
The guy known as “Despo” arrived at Lynn in 2009 and played in 13 games his freshman year for the Fighting Knights, where his best game came against Johnson & Wales when he scored two goals. He also earned Sunshine State Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll recognition (for players earning a 3.2 grade point average or better). Just as quickly as Desperito had arrived on the scene, he was gone, following a decision to sit out the year.
“I do not regret taking the year off; I think it was meant to be,” said Desperito. “I had stuff going on personally I wanted to take care of and I just wanted to focus on school. It wasn’t anything to do with the soccer aspect, but more the personal aspect. My academics are the most important to me and something I am really proud of and I always try my best in anything I do.”
Desperito’s passion for the game never left and even though he did miss playing soccer with his friends, he was happy and content with his life. Once in a while he would think about playing soccer again, but he never really made it a plan.
“It was kind of one of those things, if it happens, it happens. And if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.”
During his junior year, an opportunity arose that he could not pass up. Lynn University’s head women’s soccer coach Chip Dutchik and assistant coach Joe Connon offered him the chance to be an assistant coach/team manager for an internship that would give him school credit. Desperito, who is friends with a lot of players on the women’s soccer team, happily accepted the offer.
The 2011 season was one of much success as he helped guide the Fighting Knights to an 11-7-1 record and a berth to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000.
“That [working as an assistant coach] was definitely one of the best experiences I have had as far as soccer working for Chip. It was not awkward telling the girls what do to; all of them respected me as a coach and they understood that I was just looking out for them when I was coming from a coaching standpoint.”
The women’s team did so well that they made it to the Round of 16. And in the same year, the Lynn University men’s soccer team was making news of their own when it made it to national championship. Even though the losses left a sour taste in his mouth, Desperito was happy and proud of both teams making it so far.
At the end of the season, head men’s soccer coach John Rootes reached out to Desperito to gauge his interest in a comeback. He had trained in practice with the girls all season long and become a gym rat; working out during the summer in the gym and with a cross fit program to help him stay in shape. Although he had to tryout, Rootes had a spot for him on the team
“I thought it was it the right time to come back and Chip definitely understood; this soccer program has been very supportive. And, knowing Coach Rootes wanted me back gave me a lot of confidence.”
In August, the Lynn men’s soccer team welcomed back “Despo” with open arms. Even though the first few days were tough on him, the transition was mostly smooth as he felt he really did not miss a beat. He had been hanging out with much of the team the past few years anyway so the chemistry was alive as if he had never left.
“I feel that I have come back as a more mature player along with being more physically and mentally stronger. The hardest aspect of the game is the speed of play because you have to play quick and know how to play smart by thinking two steps ahead.”
Desperito has earned plenty of minutes this season for the Fighting Knights and has really never felt the pressure playing for a No. 1 nationally-ranked team. He even scored a game-winning goal less than a minute after subbing into the match at Florida Southern. The team recently achieved one of their many goals by winning the Sunshine State Conference regular season crown, but his, and the team’s, prized goal is to get back to the national championship and bring home the 20th title in Lynn history.
The junior forward has accepted his role on the team as a player. He does not teach his teammates but he does gives advice to the girls who play on Lynn’s women’s soccer team when they ask and he keeps up to date with their team as well. Although he misses coaching the girls, he is happy to be back playing for the Blue and White.
“Having that opportunity to coach was something I was truly blessed with. Also, coaching helped me with the mental aspect of playing because you see things differently, especially tactically.”
With one more year of eligibility, Desperito may return for his master’s next year. Overall, playing and coaching has taught him a lot about life.
“Soccer has taught me to be patient, to be humble and to work hard; good things will come.”