For the love of the game: Is your child really a pro athlete?

By: Terry Boyd – The GYM Trenton

I recently had the honour of being a pall bearer in the funeral for not just my most favourite coach in any sport I participated in, but also my favourite mentor and one of the best people I have ever known.

Tom McCulloch

Tom McCulloch was that man.

In my humble opinion the arts and sports should be an integral part of every child’s education. No child is the same with some excelling in the arts, sports, shop and academia respectively. If it wasn’t for the “carrot” of sports I would have lost interest in all things education and wouldn’t have gone – if I’m being honest.

Soccer was my favourite sport, loved the game, loved my teammates and started putting together a respectful game while in high school.

It was later that a lot of life and soccer lessons were taught to me by Tom McCulloch. Tom had an incredible bass voice with a Scottish accent. I first heard him say “well done Terry”, at a “friendly” that was played in Smiths Falls.

On foreign turf any support was welcome but this was more than that, it was inspiring. I worked my arse off that game because I wanted that guy to notice. I had no idea all these years later the influence he would have on me as we honoured him during his burial just a few short months ago. In a time when men you looked up to and aspired to be like are few and far between, Tom was that kind of man for many soccer players.

Tom coached me with the Trenton Sockers, a group of men who I consider the best and greatest friends I’ve ever had. We have had adventures and journeys world wide that were historic. It still bring tears to my eyes with laughter when we reminisce about these places and people. Tom was always overseeing our adventures and smartly chose the tournaments and trips that were more serious than those that were for young men having a good time. He loved the game too much to taint it with hungover semi-finals, and loved his team too much to censure what he considered young men’s rights of passage – he truly “got us”.

As a coach people often ask me, “what do you think my child’s chance of making it are?” “Making it” meaning scholarships, professional contracts etc.. I’m not the first coach to hear this question. With soccer’s popularity on the rise, especially in Women’s Professional Soccer people have a hope and dream for their child to “make it”, I don’t know many parents who don’t want the absolute best for their child. I answer that question with a question.

What do you want for your child?

I would never say that a child can’t be successful and achieve lofty goals of scholarships and/or professional contracts. I’m not in the business of telling anyone it’s impossible. Anything IS possible. But what exactly is it that people want for their child athlete?

There are numerous stats about youth players going professional or getting “full rides” to College divisions such as National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA ) or National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA ), they are few and far between, division 2 and 3 “partial rides” being more common. The stats for a successful student-athlete aren’t great. For example only 1.4% of soccer players who play in the NCAA go on to play professional soccer.

Unfortunately, Canada is woeful in developing professional opportunities for Canadian student athletes. According to a study from University of Windsor, about 2,000 student athletes move to the U.S. Each year to have a higher chance of becoming professional athletes. The amount of Canadian athletes compared to American in NCAA or NAIA lessons the odds for a Canadian student- athlete.

Among the many lessons that Tom taught me, one of the most pronounced was when he told us after a mid-season game, “ you are the highest paid athletes, because of the love of the game.” He was right. Every player on that team were good players, excellent players, and we all loved the game.

I had a great run as a soccer player. I won individual awards, won tournaments, scored key goals but I don’t remember many of the details, I’m sure if I dug around I could find a medal or two, a plaque maybe, but it wasn’t any of that, that mattered. What mattered was the memories and feelings that came with having the best friends I ever had, a mentor that meant the world to me.

We created a foundation and basis to, as Tom put it, “to give back to the game.”

All the men on that team coach, or have coached, assisted, refereed, belonged to youth soccer boards and have children that play in the game. We learned from Tom the greatest part of the game was each other and the memories. Tom and the Sockers in my opinion did it right.

If you’re at the crossroads of deciding whether your talented student-athlete should go all in and shoot for the stars, consider whether those stars are achievable or whether they are “playing for the love of the game,” because the two are not always mutually exclusive.

The GYM – 421 Dundas St. Trenton 613-392-1825