The Missouri High School Soccer Coaches Association (MSHSSCA) held their annual Recognition Banquet Sunday December 18th and introduced a new award this year, the “Champion of the Game”. Designed to recognize members of the community outside of players and coaches, I’m proud to say that I am the inaugural recipient.
I did a poor job of saying thank you at the Banquet. It had been awhile since I’d done any public speaking. I hope I can rectify that here. This is the game I love, it’s a team game and I’ve had the benefit of plenty of support from teammates throughout.
I started my first site – SGFsoccer.com – in March 2005 and it didn’t take long at all for the area coaches to warm to my efforts. It started with Jeff Rogers at Glendale, and his webmaster Bob Jordan who helped me start the website and was a great sounding board until we lost him in 2011. Chris Miller was the first statewide site to recognize my effort when he added a link to my site on the MSHSSCA website, a huge step up in credibility when coaches visited Springfield and nice ‘Google juice’ to attract traffic to my site (I still have the MHSSCA t-shirt Chris!). Nick Schmitt at West Plains was always ready to support my use of new technology, happily signing up for a Twitter account with me in late 2007 as we used it to provide score reporting for games (a group texting model essentially). My introduction to the ‘Sedalia Mafia’ that had been working to grow the game in Central and Southwest Missouri – Eddie Horn at Jeff City, Phil Hodge at Kickapoo and Mike Howard at Rolla among others.
My catch phrase is ‘Serving Soccer Junkies since 2005’ and it was crafted with the direct help of Jeremy Alumbaugh, a Champaign kid who through his time as an assistant at Missouri State and later running Springfield SC (now Sporting SGF) offered his support to help the growing community celebrate their growth and success. Alumbaugh is now the General Manager of the Saint Louis FC USL program in St. Louis, an organization he has had a very large impact on.
When Mike Gow at Lebanon (then Waynesville and just recently, Camdenton) suggested a High School All-Star game, he approached Alumbaugh and I and we all kicked in to get it done – Mike, Ben Timson at Catholic, Chris Shull at Greenwood, Phil Hodge at Kickapoo, Evan Palmer at Nixa and more. It’s one of the great joys I get out of running the site(s) is the relationships developed. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity to work with them in promoting the game.
One of the most fun examples of the growth of the community came in 2010 within an hour of Landon Donovan scoring his game winner against Algeria. Bill Griffiths, owner of Farmers Gastropub in downtown Springfield, had opened his restaurant doors to support watch parties during the entire World Cup that Summer. A jam packed dining area erupted with Donovan’s goal and my uploaded video of the celebration was picked up first by the New York Times (the only Midwestern link besides the Kansas City event) and later was included in the widely watched viral video that soon circulated. Check it out here. It was great fun celebrating the US success and for the outside world to see the culture of the game that could be found in Southwest Missouri.
I was introduced to soccer in 1974 as a college freshman at Florissant Valley and watched as Pete Sorber guided the team to a National Championship in 1975. I began shooting the game for the first time as a stringer for the Suburban Journals, covering Rosary, Aquinas, Ritenour and many others. My first game played came as a 20 year old at UMR when the GDI guys I was hanging with discovered I was a North County kid and just assumed I played the game. I quickly accepted their invitation and didn’t quit playing until I was 45. The details are here.
When I returned to St. Louis in 2011, it was Dave Musso who convinced me to continue my efforts. Thus was born SoccerSTL in July 2011. Alf Bilbao, Ryan Swan and Musso were always supportive and helped me gain an appreciation for the level of play in the GLVC, a league with a significant contingent of St. Louis players. A common link with those three players was Pat Atwell, the AD at Drury (now Culver-Stockton) who had come from Quincy and was a huge proponent of soccer. That extended to a high level of support that helped me broaden my ‘game’ to include the many St. Louis natives who are running programs across the United States.
The support of Coaches here like Terry Michler and Mike Gauvain in the MCC, Vince Drake, Greg Koeller, Pat Turner and Mike Wilhite in the AAA, roaming St. Charles and the GAC with Seth Wilber, Derek Phillips and Eddie Mullholland, Kyle Austin, and of course the Suburban North (my home territory again) with Eric Urban, Pat Rocco, Jason Sellers and Tom Iffrig. Among the best – Michael Skordos at Parkway West who wanted everyone to know what I was doing and used the Parkway Showcase event he runs to help make that a reality.
I’m only slowly sorting out Activities Directors and how to work best with them since I’m not a traditional journalist, more of an archivist in my mind but Josh Scott at Waynesville was the first to help me and here in St. Louis Jim Welby at St. Domininic, Scott Harris at Howell Central and Debi Turner at Duchesne were enthusiastic and very helpful.
I know I’ve left some folks out and for that I apologize. And to Chris Miller, President, and Board Members Mike Howard, JD Hunter, Matt Pritchett, Ben Timson, Dave Brenner, Jason Sellers and Joe Toigo, thank you for this honor. I truly appreciate it and have enjoyed the opportunity you have given me to share in the path you have taken, helping to grow future leaders and fine citizens.
Now, if you aren’t a member of the Missouri State High School Soccer Coaches Association, may I suggest you apply now!