Homegrown success: Tristan Bowen shares his unconventional route to become a professional player


John Pranjic

Tristan Bowen playing for La Galaxy

Maja Cykowska, reporter

Tristan Bowen, men’s varsity soccer head coach at San Domenico, tried out for and made the La Galaxy professional soccer team at the age of 16. Shortly after, he was offered a contract, making him the first homegrown player in MLS (Major League Soccer) history. UEFA defines locally-trained or “homegrown” players as those who, regardless of their nationality, have been trained by their club or by another club in the same national association for at least three years between the ages of 15 and 21.

Throughout his high school soccer career,  many coaches predicted a successful career for Bowen. The summer after his freshman year, he traveled to Brazil to train in the mecca of soccer, which earned him the recognition and appreciation of many coaches. This made him realize that he could play professionally and make it to the top.

“I made a plan [to play professionally] on the flight home from Brazil,” Bowen said, which was the beginning of his unique and uncommon route to success.

Bowen abandoned the high school life of a regular teenager. Starting out his life with homeschool, Bowen completely immersed himself in the world of soccer. He started training full time and traveling to try out for teams in Europe.

Following his 16th birthday, Bowen tried out for the La Galaxy professional soccer team. In order to try out, the young player had to fake his ID in order to enroll himself for the tryouts with 18 year olds and older competitors.

“I made the team but at the end I had to tell them that I was only 16,” Bowen added. 

After a short time he received an offer from the club and started training with them full time by the age of 17, kickstarting his professional soccer career. 

“I don’t advise it to everyone,” Bowen said about the different steps he took to become a professional.The unconventional path he chose for himself was required a great deal of risk and personal responsibility, especially for a young player.

He spent a good amount of time training and working individually. “I was an introverted kid,” Bowen commented.“That part of my personality mixed with a deep desire to want to make things better for my family forced me to take responsibility for my development.”

Bowen said he was most proud of being able to take care of his family. The sport gave him a chance to financially help his mother, who raised him and his older brother by herself. 

The love, focus, and determination of soccer encouraged him to stay on the path regardless of how hard it was. He knew what his goal was and he was fully determined to accomplish it.

“I didn’t have any distractions,” Bowen said. “If the coach told me I needed to do something in order to get better, that’s all I did.

“I was working towards something that was going to change my life,” he noted.

Bowen emphasized that being open to criticism and asking questions make a significant difference in the learning process.

“Everything that I learned playing soccer has all served me in life,” he said, describing the lessons he learned playing soccer that impact his daily life. 

Now, Bowen works with young athletes, sharing his soccer experiences and knowledge as the men’s varsity soccer head coach at San Domenico.

“There were people that came around me that helped me navigate my path,” Bowen said. “And that’s what I’m trying to do with the boys.”

The men’s varsity soccer players describe the experience of working with Bowen as one of the best they ever had. 

“Coach Tristan is the most hardworking coach I’ve ever had,” men’s varsity soccer player, senior Zuzu Bikahi said. “When he started coaching us, our training sessions entirely shifted,” he added. 

Bowen emphasized that he cares about his relationship with his players, and as a result, his players appreciate and trust him.

“He’s not just a coach for me,” men’s varsity soccer team captain, senior Angelo Neto said. “He is like a mentor and a father.”

Neto mentioned how Bowen shares life advice in an attempt to navigate his players to success in all aspects of life. 

“I’m seeking the same thing he was 15 years ago,” Neto said. “Coach relates his story to where I am now and wants me to learn from his experience.”

They all appreciate Bowen’s high expectations and understanding attitude.

“He understands each of us on an emotional level, even though each of us have a different path, some try to play college or professionally and some just play for fun,” Bikahi added. “Besides turning us into better soccer players, he turns us into better people.” 

After making school history by making the playoffs last season, both Bowen and his players have high expectations for the upcoming season. Their goal is to win the BCL-West Conference. 

“Our returning players already make our team really good,” Neto said, “[and]adding our new players will help to make a bigger difference and go further than last season.” 

Bowen shared his expectations and hopes for his players. 

“My expectations are that everyone does their best every single day regardless of what that looks like. I expect my returning players to take the team a step further and my seniors to set a good example,” Bowen said. “I want them to grow as a group and individuals and have fun.”

The players are looking forward to the start of the season, and they mentioned that a big part of it is an amazing team chemistry. The team enjoys spending time together and expects the energy to be even stronger this season. 

“[Team unity] is crucial for us to be successful,” Neto observed. “We would never make it as far as we did last year without believing in each other and pushing each other to do more.”

Besides the upcoming season, Bowen has hopes for the future of the San Domenico soccer program.

“My hope is to make sure that San Domenico is respected among all the other schools in the area, and people see it as a real place that you want to go to to get a soccer experience because of all of the coaches we have here,” Bowen states.

The San Domenico men’s varsity soccer officially started practicing on Monday, October 31st. Both the players and coaches strongly encourage everyone to support the team by attending the games. The varsity team starts the season with a scrimmage against San Rafael High School on November 10th.