“I’m trying to make this my life,” Daytona SC starter Nate Monsanto said.
At 22 years old, Nate Monsanto already knows the grind. Wake up, train, sleep, repeat. It’s a part of his everyday life.
Monsanto, who starred on Flagler Palm Coast High School’s varsity soccer team from 2011 to 2015 and at nearby Stetson University from 2015 to 2019, is trying to carve out a career playing professional soccer.
He is a starter for Daytona SC, a program that is part of the United Soccer League. Daytona SC is a USL League 2 team, four tiers below Major League Soccer. It’s semi professional: Most of the players are either in college or have just graduated, and the teams don’t pay their players.
“I’m at the age now where it’s either you make it or you give it all. That’s what a lot of players my age are dealing with. You don’t want to give up the game, but sometimes life comes at you.”
Nate Monsanto, semi pro soccer player
“I’m doing what I love to do, so that helps me find my zone,” said Monsanto, drenched in sweat after a grueling morning practice at Daytona Stadium. “This is where I want to be, and making that next level is what I want to do. I want to see how far I can go in this sport.”
There are eight teams in the USL League 2’s Southeast Division, of which Daytona SC is a part. They’ll travel all across Florida from May until mid July for games.
The college players use it as an opportunity to stay in shape during the offseason. The graduates, like Monsanto, use it as a stepping stone to — hopefully — bigger and better things.
“I’m trying to make this my life,” Monsanto said. “I want to make a living at this.”
He tried out for the team in March, while he was still at Stetson. The coaching staff liked his ability to play with both feet, his decision-making skills, his soccer IQ. He has since been named a starter at center midfielder and is one of the team’s leaders.
“He’s a very valuable player,” head coach Massimo Morales said. “He’s got experience. And I rely on him very much.”
When Monsanto’s not playing soccer, he’s coaching soccer.
He coaches club at Stetson’s Football Association and was recently selected to be an assistant coach for Stetson’s varsity squad.
“This is an every day, every night kind of thing,” he said.
The opportunity to continue his playing career so close to home, however, is a welcome change for his father, Reg Monsanto, who is an assistant coach for Matanzas’ boys soccer team.
Last year, Nate Monsanto played in a summer league in Greenville, South Carolina, making it difficult to see his games. To be able to watch his son chase his dreams first-hand is a “dream come true.”
“We would have followed him wherever he went,” Reg Monsanto said. “To have something local is the cherry on top.”
Nate Monsanto doesn’t quite know when he’ll hang up his cleats. He’s too focused on the task at hand: achieving a dream he’s had since he first kicked a ball around his backyard in Palm Coast when he was 3.
“I’m at the age now where it’s either you make it or you give it all,” he said. “That’s what a lot of players my age are dealing with. You don’t want to give up the game, but sometimes life comes at you.”