Walker Zimmerman is a student of the game of soccer. His resume reads: Second-team All-American, MLS All-Star, starter for the United States Men’s National Team and the most recent addition — volunteer assistant coach at UCLA.
“The most important thing for me was being a resource to the players,” Zimmerman told NCAA.com. “I've been in their shoes. I know what it's like, what it takes to get to the next level.”
This new endeavor serves as an opportunity towards his future, doubling as an additional responsibility on the 26-year old’s jam-packed schedule. But, like many students, balancing a schedule and time management are both integral keys to success.
The center back has made eight starts for Los Angeles FC and four more for USMNT since the beginning of June, most recently called away for a pair of international friendlies in early September.
Training and traveling between club and national teams occupied much of his time over the summer, an understanding had between Zimmerman and Bruins head coach Ryan Jorden when the former was offered a volunteer position.
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Jobs are often preceded by internships. Recruiters meet with prospective candidates, culminating with an offer to the most qualified applicant. In Zimmerman’s case, he made the first move by inviting Jorden to coffee.
The two met, by chance, at an Athletes in Action meeting at UCLA shortly after Jorden’s hiring. His attendance at the meeting was fortuitous. They two remained in touch after their initial connection, ultimately coming to the decision to bring Zimmerman on board.
Coaching had previously crossed Zimmerman’s mind. But up until the past offseason, school was a priority away from soccer. A majority of his free time away from soccer was spent finishing a degree online at Southern New Hampshire following a two-year collegiate career (2011-12) at Furman.
Zimmerman and UCLA have been on opposite schedules for much of the 2019 college soccer season. October is set to offer more regularity on the calendar, and with it, more time with the Bruins.
Congrats to Bruin alums @ReggieCannon15, Jackson Yueill, and current volunteer assistant Walker Zimmerman (@thewalkerzim) on receiving #USMNT call-ups for next month's matches against Mexico and Uruguay! #GoBruins https://t.co/GTpCh7Qq09— UCLA Men's Soccer (@UCLAMSoccer) August 28, 2019
The time until then gives Zimmerman a chance to prepare for his first test as a teacher — channeling his knowledge to guide others. It’s also an opportunity to gain a leg up on future athletes seeking to get into coaching.
“I understand things, concepts, ideas. But now it's a different challenge of how do I get those ideas and concepts across to a player,” Zimmerman said. “That's something that I've always wanted to continue to challenge myself to do.
“Keep learning, keep evolving, so that down the road when the time comes and maybe I do go into coaching. Now, I'm not unprepared.”
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While Zimmerman looks to Jorden and his staff for mentoring, his presence adds a younger voice to the program. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Zimmerman gains a better understanding of coaching while his playing experience and youthful presence are resources to be utilized by the players.
In his short time with UCLA, he believes those connections are beginning to flourish, citing interests from his college days to spark curiosity.
“If I would have had a chance in college to be around a professional athlete, a current professional athlete every day, I would love just to pick their brain about their training habits, their nutrition, the way that they see the game and ask questions,” Zimmerman said. “It's never too early to start thinking about what's next.”