Jim Wallace’s has an enthusiasm for the sport of soccer and tries daily to pass that along to all athletes he works with. From being the technical director for FC Brandywine to being the head coach for the boys soccer team at Garnet Valley High School, Wallace’s contributions to growing the game was more than enough to name him this month’s AAA Start Your Journey Contest winner.
Jim’s love of the sport began with his grandfather who helped him every way possible during his youth career. While the two developed a fan rivalry due to the professional clubs they supported in Europe, they always were interlocked with the sport they loved.
“I got into soccer through my grandfather when I was very young and he was the first one person that gave me a soccer ball,” Wallace said “He drove me to all my games and training sessions when I was younger he was the one that kept me involved with the game.”
While Jim hoped his journey included suiting up for a professional club, he found his into coaching as a way to stay involved in the game he loved. After earning his college degree in sports coaching, Wallace took a chance by traveling to the United States to assist with a soccer camp for what was supposed to be only a three month trip.
“Well I got to work with Essential Soccer during a summer camp and was supposed to head back home to Scotland and find a real job I guess you could say. However I was asked to stay long and got to come back work camps for a few more years. I remember when I said that I would be done after one camp but luckily I fell in love and met my now wife, and I’ve been here ever since.”
While playing was his first goal, Wallace now uses the passion he had on the field and tries to bring it to his players at all age levels off the field employing different ways in order to grow their love of soccer.
“I would hope that my enthusiasm and my passion for soccer just spills onto all of the kids. We talk about matches and players daily at training and I even give them YouTube clips to expand what they see and hope that when they look it up, they find other things that get them excited about the game as well,” Wallace said “This year at FC Brandywine, we started a fantasy soccer league that has about 30 players in it and I think it again helps them learn and watch the games. The best thing about coaching is seeing those players who want to learn and want to be with you wherever you are coaching because it shows they care about the game and want to learn more.”
During his time Wallace has helped the sport grow in the region and has also seen the sport continue to grow across the country.
“In the U.S. the growth of soccer has changed three ways. The coaching has gotten better thanks to changes in the license system along with the coaching conventions that are held by the USSF and the NCAA. Another way has been seeing the game on television and how more and more kids are watching the game. I remember when I first got to the U.S. in 1998, I couldn’t find a place to watch the World Cup Final. Now I see people all over wanting to watch the games and during the World Cups, teams around the area will come together and watch the matches. Finally I think the sport itself has grown as parents and kids realize how important teamwork is and how you have to work together in order to achieve wins which can be different in other sports where one great player can win you games. In soccer, it takes a team to succeed and soccer helps develop kids both on and off the field.”
One of Jim’s favorite things as a child was seeing soccer in person as it helped him gain a true appreciation for the sport. Now Wallace and his teams are able to see professional soccer in their own backyards and even use Philadelphia Union as a teaching tool to grow their own enthusiasm.
“I think having Philadelphia Union in our kid’s backyards has helped. With the Union here, our players are able to see professionals in front of them live and see what it takes to be a great soccer player,” Wallace said. “Even now, I’m seeing former players show up at the Union games and they will talk to me about the memories we shared during matches that I brought them to. The best thing about bringing our players to the game is using it as a teaching tool. Before a match I’ll ask them two or three questions that I want them to find out so they stay engaged and then at our next practice, I ask them to answer it. Sometimes I’ll ask formation were the Union playing in and the kids will us cones to try and answer it and then you see their knowledge of the game just grow and grow. When I call out a formation, the kids will associate it with the match they saw and relive the game but through themselves.
This story is part of AAA’s “Start Your Journey” campaign, an effort – in partnership with the Union – to help celebrate families’ journeys in support of their young athletes…the long road trips, all-weekend tournaments, and the special bonds that are formed from the extensive time on the road. Each month, the Philadelphia Union and AAA will select an individual within its soccer network to develop a feature story on their path to success in association with the game of soccer. Additionally, fans are encouraged to share their own stories via social media using #ShareYourJourney.