The main reason my wife and I chose East Tennessee as the place to begin our future together, is that at the time my then 19 year-old twins sons began attending the University of Tennessee. They were both majoring in music. Now 26, they are both back in Nashville and have an awesome Jazz band names “Krew” and I miss them very much.
My oldest son Philip, six years their senior, is also a musician living in Nashville and I do not see him nearly enough either. When he was 10 years old, he decided he wanted to play soccer, a game I never played and knew little about. Nevertheless, his mother and I signed him up at the local YMCA. But, when his first coach, a Nashville police officer, ran onto the field during one of his games and began physically fighting with the referee, I decided that even without experience, I could do better than that and began coaching his team the following spring.
Consequently, the twins also wanted to play and before I completely understood the precious brevity of youth, I had coached 40 soccer teams and my sons were suddenly almost grown. Because New Orleans was my home town, I named the first team Hurricane. The moniker stuck and as a result, 25 of the 40 teams played under that name. However, the last Hurricane did something that no other team from their league had ever done before.
Daniel Webster defined perfection as “the highest degree of excellence.”Once excellence is tasted, mediocrity becomes a bitter stew. During their final season together, the fifth and sixth-grade kids on the Donelson YMCA’s Hurricane soccer team learned this lesson perfectly. In a league that is not even supposed to keep score, their distinction was impossible to ignore.
In the fall of 1998, the summer heat lasted well into October as radiant skies offered few clouds to shade the only team in the league that foolishly scheduled double-headers every Saturday until past Thanksgiving. Notably, after three weeks and six matches, the Hurricane kids had yet to lose. Week 4 provided them with their first competition against a well coached school team in the second match of the day.
The young teams played through the first match in exhausting heat. Hurricane did eventually prevail over a difficult opponent. However, the celebration did not last long, as parents’ frantically applied ice and wet towels to bring down body temperatures in the 20 minutes before the next kickoff. Some parents suggested not playing the next game, but the team would have none of that.
Predictably, in the second match, the fresh (and also undefeated) school team, playing on its home field, showed little respect or compassion for the tired Hurricane and led 4-0 at the half. However, something both unfortunate and inspiring happened on the way to the sideline. Some of the players on the school team began to taunt the Hurricane members as they left the field. “This is too easy.” They scoffed, “You guys are losers. We thought you were supposed to be good.”
During halftime, no one said a word, but each player knew exactly what the other was thinking. The cold towels suddenly draped over erect shoulders as facial expressions transformed from fatigued to determined. Struggling to temper their emotions, the heat no longer occupied their thoughts and amazingly the same team that barely made it to the sidelines only a few minutes earlier was already on the field and ready to start long before the unsuspecting schoolboys.
Thirty minutes later, supporters of both teams left their seats as the Hurricane’s fourth and tying goal kissed the back of the net just as the referee reached for his whistle to end the match. To remain undefeated, the Hurricane players displayed such composure, they allowed a completely frustrated school team past midfield only twice during the entire second half. The confidence they earned that hot October day carried them to their third consecutive undefeated season.
Remarkably, this same group of young people returned for their final season together in the spring of 1999. For their encore, they not only won all their matches, they did not relinquish a single goal in the process. After seven years and 25 teams, the last Hurricane was perfect.
I thought a long time before writing this story, as I am not an advocate of boasting. But I will always remember each of those kids who are all obviously grown today and decided that it would be an injustice to fail to document their amazing achievement just because I carried a clipboard with their names on it. The referees told me I was too old to play.
Henry Piarrot is a Sevier County resident and WorldVentures franchisee. Please send all story recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org