On April 2, the Houston Dynamo posted a photo on Instagram from the team’s first-ever match with the caption “April 2, 2006. Where were you?” The first reply came as a bit of a surprise: “Being born at 10:18 pm.”
As it happens, the young man who replied is now a member of the Houston Dynamo Academy. A few hours after the Dynamo burst on the scene with a 5-2 win over the Colorado Rapids, Jacob Grossmann was born in Kauai, Hawaii. At that time, the Grossmann family had no idea how much of a role the Dynamo organization would play in their life, and more specifically, their son’s life.
Despite never really being involved in team sports themselves, Grossmann’s parents, Eric and Sarah, noticed a flier for youth soccer one day and decided to let their son play if he was interested. Not only did the five-year-old show interest, he fell in love with the game and could not get enough of it.
“We thought it would be great to get him integrated into the community and socializing some, but then it was all him,” Eric Grossmann explained. “He took off with loving the sport and had coaches at a young age that rewarded hard work, and once you turn something into a competition, he is striving for the next goal, so it did not matter what we were doing, he wanted to play. We could be on vacation at Disney World and sitting at the pool, but if he saw somebody playing soccer he would take off and go play. He would rather do that than anything else. We encouraged his love of the game, but it was all him really taking the interest on his own.”
“I don’t remember exactly how many goals I scored in my first game, but I remember that I scored a lot and everybody was telling me, ‘Whoa, you are pretty good,’ so I remember thinking it was really fun and that I wanted to keep playing,” Jacob recalled. “Originally, I was just playing for fun, but then I started playing more and got into the higher divisions of Hawaii, like when I joined KEAHI, my first club in Kauai, and then I joined ALBION SC Hawaii on Maui, which is when I really started dreaming of becoming a professional soccer player.”
Grossmann and his father moved to Houston late last year, and while the move was not easy on the young man, especially having to leave his mother and younger sister behind in Kauai, it also provided him with an incredible opportunity that he accepted without a second thought.
“It was definitely a big move coming from one of the smallest places in the world to one of the biggest cities in the United States, a bit of a culture shock really,” Jacob admitted. “I think Houston is the same size as Kauai, if not actually a little bit bigger, so that is crazy, and I had no idea life could be this busy all the time.”
After he moved to Houston, Grossmann was in search of a new club, and he and his father reached out to a coach they knew from back on the island: Dynamo Academy Director Paul Holocher. Holocher arranged a tryout, and Jacob performed well enough to earn a spot in the Academy.
“I first met Jacob when I was the Director of Development for Maui United, and he attended a youth camp when he was really young,” Holocher explained. “Even then, he was an incredibly motivated player with an amazing mentality and when him and his father had to move out here, it was just a perfect opportunity for Jacob to join us, and now those same qualities are really showing through in our Academy.”
Now a member of the U14 Academy squad, Grossmann has been excelling on the field, scoring a match-winning goal against ICC East in the International Champions Cup Futures tournament a few months ago and leading his age group in goals before the stoppage of play due to the coronavirus. One of the aspects of his journey that really stands out to Grossmann though, is the uncanny resemblance his path shares with that of a certain Dynamo legend.
“When I was in Kauai, we didn’t have cable so we could not watch MLS games, much less the Dynamo, but they are actually a pretty popular team in Hawaii because of Brian Ching,” Jacob said. “I knew he played for the Dynamo and was a really good player to come out of Hawaii, so he was definitely one of my role models; and now, moving from Hawaii to Houston and being with the Dynamo Academy makes me feel like I’m following in his footsteps. I mean, I was born on the same day Houston played their first-ever game, so I just feel like it’s all fate.”
Regardless of whether it is fate or chance that Grossmann is part of his fellow Hawaiian’s former club, the young player has already set goals for himself, which include following in a bit more of Ching’s footsteps.
“I would love the chance to be part of the First Team here,” Jacob stated. “That has been a goal of mine since I first joined the Academy and would be a dream come true. Also, Ching was the first Hawaiian-born player to make the U.S. Men’s National Team, and to play for the Men’s National Team is absolutely a huge dream for me.”
With such lofty goals in mind at such a young age, Grossmann has plenty to keep him motived during this pandemic, but if there is one thing he loves the most and cannot wait to start again, his father says the answer is simple.
“Obviously, this is hard for everyone right now, but you just have to stay positive,” Eric Grossmann said. “Once we start again, I think all the kids, not just Jacob, will realize how much more they want it and will be ready for the next step. When we talk about soccer though, the first thing out of his mouth is always scoring goals, which is definitely what he misses the most, and I have a feeling that will happen a good bit once he can get back on the field.”
For Holocher, Grossmann’s hunger for goals is welcomed, but what really makes him a great player and a joy to have in the Academy are his characteristics and the intangibles that he brings with him every day.
“I think what really makes Jacob special is his mentality, his love for training and getting better, his growth mindset, and his great work ethic,” Holocher explained. “He has his goals set to go as far as he can, and being in the type of environment that we have here, he can go as far as he wants. He has an amazingly positive mentality and is a hard worker, which is the kind of young man that you just love coaching and being around. He always has a smile on his face and always works hard, so we will be there to support him and help him go as far as possible.”