In addition to his in-house team of three, Alfredo Naim ’07, director of fan development for Austin FC, manages the Oak Ops, a group of about 30 brand ambassadors and community liaisons named after Austin FC’s oak tree logo — itself a reference to the synergy and intertwined spirits of the city and the club. Naim also considers the group a conduit for drawing talented Austin FC enthusiasts into the club, a steppingstone between fandom and full employment. Both Tony Ho '21 and Emely Alvarado ’21, now Austin FC’s media coordinator, worked gigs for Oak Ops before hiring on.
“Those are two huge success stories,” Naim says. “They’ve gone through the journey that we designed, which is specifically to find people in the community who have the qualities — the hunger and the love for the sport — to go through the ranks and hopefully, one day, be in club leadership.”
Born and raised in Austin, Alvarado was the first in her family to go to college. Her senior year, she started wondering what she would do with her Communication degree. She considered sideline reporting. She received special permission from the athletics department to interview a runner on the cross country team, just for practice.
Then, she says, “things finally fell into place.”
Months before graduating from St. Edward’s, she started working part time as an assistant social media manager for Capital City Soccer, a digital outlet covering all things Austin FC. She first met Naim at an Austin FC event at Easy Tiger, a local beer garden, before the team’s first season. Naim and his Oak Ops crew were selling merchandise from the Verde Van, a customized 1983 Chevy Barth motor home.
“Emely came up to me and mentioned that she loves soccer, that she wanted to be part of Austin FC,” Naim says. “I interviewed her and immediately thought she would be a great asset.”
Alvarado finished out her senior year contracting with Oak Ops. She then worked part time for Austin FC’s media operations department on game days before joining full time as the media and communications coordinator.
She was just two days into the job when her boss pulled her aside before a press conference and asked her to interpret for Jhojan Valencia, the team’s new midfielder from Colombia. Minutes later, she was standing on the sidelines before a pool of hungry reporters and a player she hadn’t met. When Valencia finished speaking, the reporters stared, waiting for her to begin.
Spanish is Alvarado’s native tongue, but translating on the spot — oscillating rapidly between languages and dialects — was difficult. In the beginning, she relied on her phone, typing notes so she wouldn’t forget what the players said when it came her turn to speak. But now, after a year on the job, she’s comfortable with the role. She’s ditched the phone. She pivots with ease. The translation flows without interruption.
“When people meet me, they’re like, ‘You’re so lucky. You get to see the players every day.’ You sometimes get a little used to it,” she says. “But I’m definitely blessed. And I will say this: They’re awesome. All of them.”
By all accounts, the players feel the same about Alvarado. Last fall, a handful of players from the team’s starting lineup appeared on Mate con Vos, a livestreaming show for Austin FC produced, in part, by Alvarado. More than halfway through the broadcast, apropos of nothing, they turned the tables. They started hyping their “little sister,” calling her a “phenomenon.”
“That makes me feel good,” she says. “That makes me proud.”
By Carson Vaughan
Photography by Chelsea Purgahn
Explore more of this 5-part series of Hilltoppers who are part of a cultural shift as Austin embraces its first major-league pro team, Austin FC.
Austin connections open career doors for student Tony Ho '21.
From the classroom to the office, Alfredo Naim '07 leverages his economic studies.
How a St. Edward's connection helped José Covarrubias '18 realize his calling.
Stephanie '08 and Edward Dempsey '05 exemplify Hilltopper pride with La Murga de Austin.