Monday, December 4, 2023

Coaching for the love of the game

Mike Mayes with daughters Natalie and Emily. (Photo by Helen’s Photography)

For some adults, coaching elite level youth soccer players is a full-time job with full-time pay. For others, it is a part-time job with at least some compensation.

Lantana’s Mike Mayes isn’t one of them. While he loves to coach, he refuses to take any money for such work since he is friends with the parents of his players. To him it is more important to foster a family atmosphere where his daughters and their teammates continue to be friends.

“When they were 6 years old, I was not charging my friends $100 a month,” he said. “It just doesn’t make any sense to me.

“I don’t think at that age you should take a dime from the parents. It’s not about winning, it’s about the kids. It’s what’s best for the kids. It’s also, how do I lessen the burden on my parents because it’s expensive.”

He said some teams charge upwards of $3,000 per player with half going to the coach. Others charge about $100 per month per kid just for the coaching.

“The biggest thing for me is at the end of the day I think kids just want to play with their friends,” he said. “It promotes their love for the game.”

Currently, Mayes coaches three select teams in the Denton-based North Texas Celtic FC program. One is in the U17 (also known as the 04s for being born in 2004) age division which features his oldest daughter Natalie, a sophomore at Guyer High School. Another is in U14 (the 07s). The third is in the U13 (the 08s) which features his youngest daughter Emily, a seventh grader at Harpool Middle School in Lantana.

He has two assistant coaches – Gabe Doria and Magnus Swenson – who help him tremendously especially when he is on the road for his regular job as national sales director of healthcare and buying groups for Office Depot/Office Max.

“I’m lucky to have a great job at Office Depot that allows me to not have to charge, not have to do this for a living,” he said.

Most of his players are from Lantana, Flower Mound, Double Oak, Argyle, Denton and Lewisville though some come all the way from Wichita Falls.

“We don’t advertise for players,” he said. “It’s important to me to keep the family culture of our group. That’s how we started. That’s how these girls grew to love the game and to have a good parent group.

“I just want them to enjoy the game and have fun playing the sport. That’s important for me. I can be tough on kids but I will never tell a kid she’s a terrible person or a terrible player. I will love them like they are my own daughters.”

Mike Mayes’ North Texas Celtic FC team. (Photo by Helen’s Photography)

As such he makes time to watch his players compete on their high school teams including Guyer, Argyle, Marcus, Byron Nelson and Decatur.

Mayes played high school soccer in Marietta, Georgia, but when he grew six inches after graduating he decided to pursue basketball. After attending the University of Florida, he transferred to Webber International University where he played basketball his junior and senior year. He then started his career as a graduate assistant coach at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh but later quit after one year.

“I really saw the different side of what I didn’t want to do as a coach,” he said. “It was a business at the Division I level and I really just wanted to teach basketball.”

He took a job with Office Depot in December 1999 and coached eighth grade basketball in the Pittsburgh area before being transferred to Columbus, Ohio, and later to North Texas. He was not coaching anything at the time and was content be a Dad and watch his kids play soccer.

But when his daughter Natalie started playing soccer before she turned 4, the group to which she belonged called GLASA told Mayes they needed coaches.

“I told my wife (Stephanie) ‘I’ll just do it for a year.’ Ten years later I’m still doing it,” he said. “I loved soccer growing up and it was always my best sport. I played soccer, basketball and baseball. Back then everyone played everything. That’s something I promote today.”

After playing select basketball for a number of years, Natalie is only into soccer now including as a goalie on Guyer’s soccer team.

“She went to her first Wildcat soccer camp when she was 4,” Mayes said. “She’s been wanting to play for Guyer ever since.”

In soccer, kids start off at the recreational level and those who become good move up to academy then select level. As time went on, the options were to play academy soccer or go to Denton which would let the girls play together. So they played one year in the Denton recreation program then joined the Aces Football Club at academy level which also allowed them to remain together and not have to charge their friends parents for him to coach, something that has worked for 10 years.

“My coaching education through Celtic has been amazing,” he said. “I get the opportunity to learn from international coaches. We have a yearly trip over to Glasgow, Scotland, which has allowed my girls to see how the game is played over there.

“As we grew I wanted to make sure I continued to grow my knowledge of the game. Soccer was always a sport that I loved but the game has changed over the years and I wanted to continue my coaching education and get certain licenses.”

Mayes’ goal has been to spend as much time with his kids as his father did with him during 27 years in the Navy.

“Even as an officer he was at everything regardless of where he had to be in the world and that’s what I try to do with my kids,” he said.

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