Fifteen-year-old Zach Shunnarah has been playing soccer since he was three and a half years old. After kicking the ball around with his dad and participating in the Sunday league club at BUSA, he was hooked. “I’ve loved it ever since,” he enthuses. “It just feels kind of natural to me.” Zach, an 01, played two years up for Coach Chace Zanaty’s BUSA 99 in the off-season and recently won the state championship. He plays on the Mountain Brook High School varsity soccer team, where he started as a freshman, for Coach Joe Webb. Now, he is seeing his hard work pay off. He has been chosen for the US Youth Olympic Development Program and will be heading to Memphis to play on Alabama’s 01 State team.
Zach, the son of Deb and George Shunnarah, says he felt really good about his chances after tryouts. Finding the results on the ODP website “felt great and exciting.”
This year, Zach dropped basketball and football to concentrate on soccer, but he believes the energy, speed, communication and having to keep his eye on everything as a basketball point guard sharpened his soccer game. Football improved his aggressiveness, he says. “You’ve gotta have grit to persevere.” Coach Zanaty says, “His determination to win, improve every time he steps on the field, and his knowledge of the game at his age makes him a special player to coach.”
“My favorite part of playing soccer is that it’s nonstop. I love being aggressive, going into tackles hard, not backing off the ball, communicating with my teammates,” Zach says. For BUSA, he plays center back; for Mountain Brook, he is an outside back. “It’s all on the fly, so you’ve got to be a quick thinker — it helps to anticipate where they’re going to be so I can help my teammates. Soccer’s a game of seconds.”
Zach’s passions don’t end with soccer. He’s an excellent student with a 4.4 GPA who likes math and chemistry. He participates in school service clubs, including Relay for Life and the Interact Club, for which students have to be chosen. He is part of his church youth group and plans to attend his fourth annual Life Teen summer retreat.
When he was younger, he was smaller than other players. Once coaches saw what he could do, they started giving him chances and he literally took them and ran. Now, he has ODP ahead and plans to play college soccer. “I’m always looking to improve. I know I’ll never be satisfied — in sports, school — until I become the best version of myself that I can be. You have to be relentless in everything you do.”