Senior Zach Lame achieves childhood dream of playing division-one soccer at OSU


Contributed by Zach Lame

Senior Zach Lame juggles the ball during a training session with the men’s soccer team of Oregon State early in the month of April.

Benjamin Rabbino, Sports Chief

As a young boy, Zach Lame (pronounced Luh-May) wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, who had played soccer his whole life and kicked his first soccer ball as an infant with the help of his babysitter.

“Soccer was a pretty big influence in my life,” Lame said.

Growing up in Sherman Oaks, California, a town about 20 minutes outside of Los Angeles, Lame strived to become the best athlete that he could be, spending his time both on the pitch and on the golf course.

“I did play golf as another competitive sport growing up, but ultimately, I think around age 12 is where I wanted to go forward with it (soccer),” Lame said.

His commitment and dedication to the sport of soccer led him to great opportunities that could enhance his skills and potentially network with some of the nation’s best talent.

“I played up an age group just to kind of step myself up and push myself to another level, and then at my U-14 level made our academy travel team, so I got to play some of the greatest competition in the U.S.,” Lame said.

During Lame’s sophomore year of high school, he started to look for college opportunities where he could spend his next four years.

“I always kind of wanted to go out of state for school. I originally was looking at the Midwest for colleges, just because I wanted to be a little bit closer to my grandma,”  Lame said.

Eventually landing on Oregon State, and studying Business and Management, Lame has been grateful for the memories that he has made here.

As for the start of his college soccer career, it started with a competition that ultimately led to uncertainty on if he could make the Oregon State team, at the time run by Terry Boss.

“I remember when I came here for START (weekend), that was the same week they (Oregon State) had their college ID camp,” Lame said. “I went into the camp and talked to the coaches about it, saying, ‘Hey, what are the odds of me at least coming in to practice or try out?”

Lame understood that coming in as a walk-on freshman participating in team camps meant that he would be at the bottom of the pecking order.

“I did relatively well at the camp. But in soccer, you can do well at a camp, but you still have to play or train and beat out the guys on the team,” Lame said.

After the START weekend on campus, Lame decided to expand his circle of friends and join the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.

“Freshman year for me … being a California kid, friends weren’t all around me … joining the fraternity gave me the chance to meet a lot of great people. I am still very close friends with people to this day,” Lame said. “I was halfway through freshman year and I was like, ‘You know, maybe this lifestyle isn’t so bad.’” 

As Lame was just starting to get into the groove of things his freshman year, the COVID-19 pandemic sent everyone home, and for him, back to Sherman Oaks with nothing to do but work on himself and his soccer dream.

“I had a backyard with a soccer ball and I went to work,” Lame said. 

Through this time, Lame was motivated by a Portland-based YouTuber, Matt Sheldon who runs the channel ‘Become Elite’, who kickstarted a passion of his which would be recording his workouts and progress to share with friends and people who were interested in soccer.

When he first started creating soccer videos on social media, Lame was unsure if his videos would find the right audience.

“You have the people who do the dances, and all of that kind of stuff. Then you have the people who try to make helpful tips and just do that,” Lame said. “For me, I wanted to get into the motivational or the sports side of it.” 

Amassing 1,900 followers and 98K likes on TikTok, Lame has found levels of success on the app having videos with over 1M views.

Moving back into his fraternity house in Corvallis during his sophomore year of college, he was joined by only 26 others who elected to come back to Corvallis for the fully online 2020-21 school year. Through this time, Lame was still pursuing any soccer opportunities that may arise during the pandemic.

When Lame saw an ad on Facebook to join the Almenara Athletic Club in Spain during the spring, he decided to apply without knowing if he would ever hear anything back from the program.

Weeks had passed since applying and when he was starting to forget about it, a director from the International Development Academy sent back a message wanting to know more about Lame.

“Honestly, that was something that just came out of the blue for me,” Lame said. 

After multiple meetings with his parents and the director about all the details of the program he decided to go to Spain after a couple of months of deliberation.

Being located in a small town outside Valencia, Lame lived and became close with his teammates from the Almenara Athletic Club.

“The organization I did it with was called IDA (International Development Academy), it was a great group. What they do is they take all foreign players or people who are not necessarily from Spain … and you’ll be with a whole bunch of international kids and like top-level coaches,” Lame said. 

Arriving later in the club’s seasons and initially starting with the club’s B-team, Lame remembers back to the initial feeling of playing soccer at the level that he was.

“I remember being announced on their Instagram and stuff like that. I would never have thought I’d be playing in the fifth division in Spain,” Lame said. “Even though it’s obviously the fifth division, it’s still something that’s pretty crazy. Considering, you know, I’m just a kid from Sherman Oaks.” 

It was not the most ideal start for Lame, as he was struck with an early injury.

“I almost even came back in December (2021),” Lame said. “Four games through my season there, I fractured my ankle.” 

Being told at first that it could have possibly been a sprained ankle rather than a break, Lame decided to ride through the pain and hope that his ankle eventually got better. Unfortunately, the doctor’s optimism wasn’t accurate.

“I went back (to California) and saw a doctor and he said, ‘there’s a hairline fracture in your foot,’” Lame said. 

Now, back in the United States with his focus on the rehabilitation of his injured ankle, Lame was presented with the realization that his soccer playing days could be finished.

“It was tough because…in soccer, 21 is considered an old age. If you’re not where you want to be at 21 or 22, then you’re as good as done,” Lame said. 

However, Lame did not want his experience in Spain to be the last time he played competitive soccer, so he got back to training.

“I got healed and started kicking a ball again. I was like, ‘Well, I’ll give it one more shot, because it doesn’t hurt to try,’” Lame said.

His ankle held up, and Lame’s motivation was back to where it needed to be to put him in the best position to play division-one soccer at Oregon State.

Alongside consistent training, Lame spent his time working as a student manager for the men’s soccer team during the Fall of 2022. During this time, Lame was heavily involved with the men’s soccer team, ensuring equipment and uniforms were organized and maintained, working with assistant coaches to make sure the drills were running correctly, which gave him opportunities to pick up on the team’s schematics throughout the process.

“Usually with there being a heavy international influence, a lot of kids decide to go home and opt-out for the winter season,” Lame said. “On rare occasions when people would want to do extra training or play small-sided on weekends when they’re not playing, I would reach out to them (Oregon State) and be like, ‘Hey, can I join and be an extra number?’” 

Lame was able to participate with the team during drills for the winter season making a name for himself around the coaching office. He was presented with a two-week trial period in which he would do everything with the team, including lifts, practices, and scrimmages.

“The two-week period came, I was locked in. I wanted to do well,” Lame said. “I finally got my shot, I was like, ‘this is probably the last shot I have and if I don’t make it, then I graduate and move on with life.’” 

His hard work paid off and he was rewarded with a full-time winter roster position leading into another full-time spring roster finalization.

“It’s definitely nice being on the other side, but I am really happy to have worked with the group I did work with,” Lame said, speaking about his time as a student manager.

He has earned the respect of his peers and teammates through the short time that he has been with the team, including team captain Javier Armas.

“You can tell that he (Lame) cares about being here,” Armas said. “He is a good player and brings a good attitude to practice every day.”

Lame enters his first full term on the team, and conversations with current head coach Greg Dalby have led to offers of returning full-time next fall during the main season.

His goal for this next year is to contribute and to win as a team.

“I think a win for me would be to get some minutes in PAC-12 play,” Lame said. “But if that wasn’t the case, I think a win for me would be being PAC-12 champion. I know everyone in our locker room wants to win, so even a college cup, I think that’s like the cherry on top. Being able to make that trip to the final four for soccer would be insane.” 

Overcoming adversity and rehabbing from an ankle injury for the past year never detoured him from chasing his goal, no matter how hard it may have gotten.

“I wanted this to happen before senior year, but I had to deal with the cards I was dealt,” Lame said. 

On April 8, Lame’s name was called by the coaching staff with around 20 minutes left in the match to enter the game.

“I remember just being on the sideline, like, ‘This is gonna happen. I worked very hard for this and now I get my chance,’” Lame said. “It was a nice feeling to get (my) first game, first appearance, and first win. I think it comes with sacrifices and failures.”

Senior Luke Ness, one of Lame’s five roommates, attended the Beavers’ first Spring match against Varsity FC, staying the entirety of the match, not wanting to miss the potential moment of Lame achieving his childhood dream.

“I think it was cool, it was something he was always talking about doing,” said Ness. “He proved a lot of people wrong. He went all the way to Spain to play soccer and came back never giving up on what he wanted to do, not a lot of people can say that.”

Although the future is uncertain, Lame has had to think about his future in life and what he wants to accomplish outside of soccer.

“My main goal after soccer, once I hang up the boots, would be to work in the sports business world … maybe event management or retail sales management, all of that,” Lame said. “Whatever I can do in sports, I think that would be cool. Doesn’t need to just be soccer. I’m an avid sports fan. Obviously, growing up in L.A., one of the best sports cities in the world … if I got the chance to work back home, that’d be great.” 

At times he questioned if his body had enough left in the tank to make it to the division-one level, but Lame never gave up on his goal Lame shows how dreams can come to reality.

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