Soccer has been my favorite sport since the first time I stepped on a pitch at the age of 7. My passion for the sport has grown over the past three plus decades. In fact, my love for the sport helped me become a small business owner in 2010 when I opened a soccer store.
Growing up, I enjoyed playing on travel teams and for my high school. I also had the privilege of playing college soccer for a couple years until recurring knee injuries caused me to re-evaluate my competitive playing days. These knee injuries helped me focus my passion for soccer toward coaching. After earning my bachelor’s degree, I took a teaching position and started my soccer coaching career.
I was a high school soccer coach for fourteen years and also coached a small college for one year before leaving education altogether to become a small businessman. I have great memories from my time as a soccer coach and was looking forward to someday coaching my son competitively when he got old enough.
When my son was only a few years old, I realized he would not be a competitive soccer player. He is just not an athlete. He is a musician. Since realizing this, I gave up my dream of spending weekends travelling to watch him play, but I could not completely give up my dream of coaching him one day.
In addition to the fact that my son prefers music to almost anything else, he has been diagnosed with autism and has vision and hearing impairments. The reality of these special needs means he will not become a competitive soccer player. This didn’t stop me from seeking a way to coach him in the sport I love.
In 2012 a friend of mine talked to me about his desire to start a soccer program for individuals with special needs in our area. Both of us researched what it would take to start and run a program like this. We spoke with others who were already running special needs soccer programs and learned as much from them as possible. After several months of laying the groundwork, we kicked off our first season on April 6th, 2013.
I will always remember that Saturday as the greatest day in my soccer coaching career!
My friend has continued the special needs soccer program (TN Stars) and has his high school team out every week as buddies for the Stars. His vision of starting this program is not only impacting the local special needs community, but it is also teaching another generation about the value of all people. I am forever grateful to him for providing me with the chance to coach my son.
We’ve all heard the saying, “disability doesn’t mean inability.” The TN Stars soccer program provides individuals with special needs the opportunity to focus on what they are capable of doing, not what they cannot do.
If you are the parent of someone with special needs, or know someone with special needs encourage them to be involved in activities they enjoy. If your community does not have any activities available, I would encourage you to start your own. All it takes is a willing heart.