|SC native Bobby Belair leads Charlotte MLS player personnel|
|Former Clemson player was at Atlanta United|
|Published Monday, May 4, 2020 5:00 pm|
The South Carolina native is a recent addition to the Charlotte MLS technical staff as director of player personnel. His responsibilities include the team’s salary budget regarding player acquisition, such as the MLS SuperDraft and the expansion draft, and player relocation.
“We have a timeline and a strategy for our roster build that I think is something that during this situation that we’re going to have to continue to reevaluate and update throughout the year,” Belair said. “Right now we’re still progressing toward our goals. We have the ability to do a lot of online research and scouting. [I will be] working with Marc Nicholls our technical director and Zoran Krneta our sporting director to start looking at some of our options. We’re in a good place right now. We’re tracking as we expected to. The main goal is to really build a team that the people of the Carolinas can be proud of and be proud to support. I think our strategies and our timeline is going to reflect that.”
Charlotte was awarded the 30th franchise in December and is scheduled to begin play in 2021, leaving the club seven months to assemble a staff and a roster all while a global pandemic has sporting competition on hold. The organization relies on video calls to continue the process of building a club from scratch. They are also looking into communications software specific to the club, which will be rolled out later this year.
“We’re just trying to keep our lines of communication as open as possible,” Belair said.
Belair knows his way around MLS expansion, and successful expansion at that. He joined Atlanta United in 2015, most recently serving as a player personnel specialist there. The club’s inaugural season was in 2017, followed by an MLS Cup and hosting the All-Star game in 2018.
“An expansion club is really like a startup,” Belair said. “There’s a lot of things that need to be done, and you start with a small group of people. Eventually you build up to the staffing that you want. In the early days, a lot of people are wearing different hats. It’s great for the culture, in my opinion. Everyone is willing to assist, and help each other out with different projects. It helps you personally with gaining new experiences and being part of different things that maybe aren’t your niche. Those will definitely carry over to Charlotte.”
Belair grew up in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, but played club soccer in Charleston. It was a two-hour drive twice a week to train under the Charleston Battery umbrella, one of the oldest United Soccer League clubs in the country.
“I remember going to a lot of Charleston Battery games as a youth, but we never really had kind of the top level of soccer in our area,” he said.
Belair knows his way around the pitch as a player at Brown in the Ivy League and Clemson in the ACC. His time at the collegiate level also included several injuries.
A ruptured spleen at Brown kept him from playing as a freshman and included five days in the hospital. The spleen helps the body fight infection and filter old blood cells out of the bloodstream. While he played as a sophomore, Belair tore his right ACL, which forced him to miss his junior season. After concluding his senior season with the Bears, Belair used his remaining NCAA eligibility at Clemson as a graduate student, playing two seasons for the Tigers as a midfielder, a striker and a center back. There he reunited with coach Mike Noonan, who originally recruited him at Brown, and won the ACC tournament in 2014.
“I actually tore my ACL for the third time after my first year at Clemson,” Belair said. “I had the choice then, do I hang up the boots now and just call it quits? After talking to the doctor and the athletic trainer they said, ‘look, we can try just putting a knee brace on you, and you can kind of see how it goes.’ I chose to do that, and I knew when I chose to do that my career playing soccer was done. I had one more season left. I was going to enjoy that, and then call it quits.”
Belair joined the coaching staff at Clemson during his final semester as a volunteer assistant. It allowed him to see a different path to stay in the game, just not as a player. Jump forward to 2020, and Belair made it to Charlotte just before Mecklenburg County’s stay-at-home order went into effect. Now, he faces a combination of house hunting and trying to make it through the COVID-19 pandemic safe and sound.
“Just making sure that you’re taking care of yourself,” Belair said. “Getting out and trying to get some type of a workout in—trying to get a sweat in, [or] picking up a new hobby. I’ve enjoyed cooking a lot, and trying out some new recipes. Trying to stay mentally healthy is just as important while we’re here in quarantine. We’ll do our part to abide by the rules of the officials who know better than us, and obviously we’re all looking forward to getting back into the office as soon as possible.”
|Very much looking forward to this club. Excited to see the great team Bobby & his staff will put together!|
|Posted on May 5, 2020|
|You couldn't have gotten a better person|
|Posted on May 5, 2020|
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