Dear Coach Watkins,
It’s About Time I Tell You..
Dear Coach Watkins,
as the head coach of BYU Soccer, you have power and influence over the lives of so many young athletes, myself included. The success of the program is reflected from the efforts and actions of the players, staff members, fans, and more..yet the responsibility seems to fall on 1 individual, 1 head coach : YOU.
Earlier this month I played my final game as a BYU Cougar. With a blow of the final whistle, my 4 years with the soccer team were complete. As always, I stayed up that night re-watching the game and replaying every opportunity in my mind. Except this time, it wasn’t 1 game. I was replaying my entire career with BYU Soccer..
I made this video as something to help me remember BYU Soccer, and something to help BYU Soccer remember me. I don’t know if I’ll ever show it to my own kids. At least not too much. Probably a little. I’ll probably just make them watch it every night before they can eat dinner ;)
Growing up in the shadow of BYU Soccer
Coach, perhaps what I will miss most is playing on South Field. The fans are incredible. I would always make a point of staring out into the crowd before the start of each game. Some players play better when they can tune out the crowd. Not me. I need the crowd. I would look at the faces of the people who came to watch us play. They were giving us their support and in return I wanted to give them a show, give them a goal, give them a WIN! They were my fuel.
It was especially fun to see how many young kids filled the stands. That was me 20 years ago. As a young boy, my father would bring me to watch both BYU Mens and Women’s soccer matches. I remember them well. I remember looking onto the field and watching these incredible athletes perform. They were giants. They were superhuman. I wanted to be them.
CONFESSION : Before every game I would take a pile of BYU Soccer stickers from your office and keep them in my bag. After the game, every young fan that came my way for a signature got a free sticker. I would ask their name, their age, and if they were going to someday play for BYU. I always got the exact same response but it never got old : Their eyes would light up and they’d say ‘YES!’ :)
I didn’t get recruited out of high school
Coach, you didn’t recruit me out of high school. WTeff ;) As team captain, I led both Lone Peak High School and my club, the Utah Valley Rangers to state championships! You recruited my rival! The kid who played my same position but on the other team, Sparta!! What were you thinking?? Was it becuase I was 5'5" and 120 lbs? Oh, yea. Okay, that makes sense :)
My 1st tryout : CUT
After high school I left on a 2 year mission to Vladivostok, Russia for the LDS church. Soon after my return I got married and enrolled at BYU. I hadn’t given BYU Soccer much more thought until a saw a few players on campus. There they were, the superhumans that impressed me so much as a young boy. I wanted to play with them. I wanted to be them. I wanted their nice warm ups ;)
I told my wife I wanted to tryout for the team but she didn’t want me to. We were poor newly weds. She had a solid job and always did well in school. I had never had a job and was struggling in school. She wanted me to think more about us and our family..not soccer.
Well, not my proudest moment at the time, but I went behind her back and tried out without her knowing. 3 days of tryouts. 3 days of cuts. I made it to the final cut of the final day. I was exhausted. I played exhausted. And that’s when you cut me.
Not to be dramatic but I’ll just say it how it was. I went home and cried. I was in the shower crying feeling super pathetic and that’s when I decided to be stronger. I hated that feeling of failure and weakness. I NEVER wanted to feel it again. I promised myself that I would dedicate my next year to training and give it another shot. Then, for some reason I’m not even sure about, I decided to turn the shower cold and only take cold showers until I made the team. You did this to me ;)
1 year until tryouts : Training alone
I don’t think my wife really had a change of heart about me playing soccer at the time. I think she just saw how broken I was and felt compassion to help me overcome. That next year of training alone was incredibly difficult. I wasn’t lonely, but pushing myself harder than my teammates when I had no teammates just took more proactive drive then I’d ever needed before. Plus, cold showers are miserable. But every time the cold water hit my body I was clearly reminded of my weaknesses.
My 2nd tryout : ! ! ! ! ! ! !
Finally, my next opportunity to tryout came. Again, I made it to the final cut of the final day. You and the staff knew your roster was already set except for 1 final spot. You setup the final scrimmage so the first team was all previous BYU players except 1 guy. Then, the second team was all BYU players except for me. 1 spot left. 2 guys competing. Me vs that dude. After a year of cold training, a year of cold showers.
After that tryout I drove to home with the goal keeper, Cory Cosgrave and some buddies. We waited at his apartment until the final roster was posted. You took fooorrreverrr to post the final roster! On our drive back to the field I remember praying non-stop. I promised God above that if He would put my name on that list that I would never do anything wrong ever again ever..
..We arrived to the field and Cory and all my buddies let me approach the list first. My eyes started at the top and slowly worked their way down making sure not to miss my name. There at the bottom, the very bottom, was my name. I blinked to make sure it didn’t disappear. There it was. It was there! That was the moment, I danced like a crazy man. That was the moment, you changed my life forever.
Season 1 : Bench’d
Coach, you didn’t change my life by simply giving me a spot on the team. Rather, you changed my life by giving me an opportunity to prove myself. But that was all I needed : an opportunity to prove myself. I was ready to take it from there.
I remember as an outsider I would see BYU players come and go through the program. Some would rise to the top of their game and play out their full years. Others, would let themselves settle and often leave the team early to give more focus to school or work or “growing up”. I made up my mind from the beginning that I wanted to give BYU Soccer my everything, I wanted to see what I was capable of becoming, and I wanted to play a full 4 seasons.
My first season kicked off to a very rough start. Not because of you. Because of me. Basically, I was coming into the program with about 1/2 of the natural God-given talent of my teammates. Again, they were superhumans and I just wanted to be more like them. So I worked my hardest during practice, and played my hardest in games..or at least the final 5–10 minutes of each game when you finally subbed me in.
Season 2 : Success
Making the BYU Soccer team gave me a special type of confidence. I didn’t necessarily transform from lacking confidence to having confidence. It was different. It gave me a special confidence that if I wanted to accomplish something it was possible. With the necessary hard work and development of skills, anything was possible.
During my 2nd season with the team I began building websites and mobile apps. I built an app called Scan that grew into something amazing. After a few months it already had over 1 million downloads around the world. That was when Google invited me to fly out to California. 1 meeting at Google turned into 4. Then came meetings at Facebook. Soon, I was meeting daily with investors all around Silicon Valley wanting to help me turn this small app project into something greater. But what about soccer? What about class?
I definitely didn’t mind missing class BUT I wouldn’t dare miss soccer. Not a game, not even a practice. For for 2 months, I would wake up for 6am practice, then blitz to the SLC airport for my flight to SF, take 6–8 investor meetings, then return on the midnight flight back to SLC ready to do it all over the next day. During the month’s of June and July I ended up taking 55 flights between Utah and California. Investors ended up giving me $1.7 million as a seed investment! Those were crazy days. I missed a LOT of class. I missed a few investor meetings. BUT, I did not miss even 1 practice.
My dedication to the team began to pay off as I began seeing more and more playing time and eventually, earning a starting position!!
Dropped Out : San Francisco
With success in the business world came responsibility. If it was up to me I probably would have slowed down my business and continued making soccer my top priority. But I understood my responsibilities to my investors and especially to my business partners. It was a sad day after my Sophomore year when I decided to drop out of BYU and move with my company to San Francisco. You were nothing but supportive.
We lived and worked in San Francisco for 1 year and then decided to return home. It was a company decision. It was a family decision. And it was a personal decision. To be fully transparent about my personal decision, in a weird way I simply wanted to be around people who I envied. In San Francisco I had been hanging out with impressive millionaires and billionaires who I respected BUT strangely didn’t quite make me jealous the way my buddies back home did that were making the most of their youth and playing the game they love. I think if you do it right, being a collegiate athlete can make you the happiest on earth. Youth + Competition + Progression + Camaraderie + Health + Failure + Success! Yea, that’s special.
Upon my return to Utah, I re-tried out for the team and you welcomed me back with open arms :)
Season 3 : Junior Captain
Coach, remember my Junior season? It was perfect. Before tryouts even started I told you about the goal I set for myself to NEVER lose. NEVER. I was simply going to CHOOSE TO WIN. Before tryouts, we played the BYU co-ed tournament. My team went undefeated and won the championship. My streak continued through tryouts as I went all 3 days without my team losing. Ever.
A couple weeks into the preseason you called me and Colby Bauer into your office. We had been voted as team captains. I think this means different things to different captains. Every captain wants to lead his team. Every good captain wants to serve his team. And for me there was 1 more piece : I now had full reigns to make this season the perfect experience. Because in the end, that’s what everything is : an experience. What did I want for me and my team this season?
- CHOOSE TO WIN : Don’t try to win. Just make the choice. WIN.
- Atmosphere : LOTS of fans. Shirts for the fans. Drummers. National Anthem by Amy Whitcomb. Signatures after the games. Good weather ;)
- Memories : I hired 3 extra photographers for every game. I would collect all the photos and give my teammates their best pics. Most young dudes don’t care to keep a journal. I cared for them. So I did it for them.
My personal CHOOSE TO WIN streak continued through every practice the entire preseason. I would remind you that I was undefeated after every practice but you didn’t seem show much care about it. Didn’t care? Didn’t want to jinx me? Well the season started and for the first time ever, we went our entire home stretch of 5 games UNDEFEATED!! Miracle games with miracle moments! Such special days. Such a special season.
..and for my first time ever with BYU, we made it to the PDL Playoffs!!
Dropped Out : Los Angeles
Throughout this time my business, Scan, continued to grow. Team work, strategy, insane effort and other priceless lessons I had been learning on the soccer field were directly translating into massive success in business.
But, once again the success brought added responsibility into my life. This time, my company and I needed to leave Utah and move to Los Angeles, California. I was crushed to be leaving before my Senior season but I followed my heart and dropped out (again). You were nothing but understanding.
We were really loving LA. I felt like we would be there 2–4 years or even longer! I remember one night when you left me a voicemail. You were asking me to return for my Senior season. It was a personal victory to have the coach that once cut me to be calling my cell asking me to return ;) But, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. My wife asked me what the chances were and I answered “less than 2%”.
God loves playing with the “less than 2%” ;) Things in LA got crazy and unpredictable. Every day things were changing quickly. After only 3 months in LA, I made the difficult decision to leave my Scan team and return to Provo. It was a family decision. And it was a personal decision. This one was really difficult to explain. We really did love it there. My work environment was awesome. My team was awesome. There wasn’t a clear reason to leave. Only a feeling. It didn’t feel right for me or my family. It kinda sucks when you have to make difficult decisions purely based off feelings but that’s all I had :/ So I followed my gut and returned to Utah..1 day before tryouts.
Upon my return to Utah, I re-tried out for the team and you welcomed me back with open arms :)
Season 4 : My Finale
My Senior season :) I didn’t think I would make it this far. Kinda like the mission in Russia as well as my business, I just kept working harder each day until the end. With both situations, as I look back at all the hard work I poured in, I become overwhelmed and exhuasted. I could never do it again. Had I known beforehand how difficult it would be, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to ever begin.
Going into my final game as a BYU cougar I wasn’t sad like I thought I would be. Everyone around me was sad, but I felt good. I knew I had given my everything. The game began with me scoring the first goal to take a 1–0 lead over the Real Monarchs, a professional team. You know as well as I do how special it feels to score a goal. Unlike any other sport.
That entire night was perfect, except the part where I said goodbye to you and the team and cried like a baby. For 4 years I had worked to impress everyone and be perfect, and now I was letting that crumble as I broke down in front of you. I confessed to the team of my weaknesses. I recognized that from the beginning, I was less naturally gifted than everyone and most the drive behind my hard work was simply my attempt to raise myself near their levels. They were superhuman and I was grateful to be amongst them.
Coach, thank you for giving me the opportunity to prove myself. BYU Soccer has changed my life forever. I will forever be grateful to the program, you, and the rest of the staff.
- Chad Sackett was always there to lift me up whenever I was discouraged.
- Brandon Gilliam shared his special intelligence of the game to help me become better..not just faster.
- Hugh Van Wagenen motivated me to play like a man. A real man.
- Steve Magleby was my “broach”. My coach that felt like my brother.
- Deniece Oates was always patient with my high maintenance dietary needs. We can all agree she was the greatest of all.
- Josh Morzelewski took a 140 lbs twiggy Freshman and turned me into a 170 lbs Senior of steel ;) But seriously..
The purpose of this looong letter was to thank you. But also, just maybe, I might someday inspire one of my own kids or some other little boy like me who is watching the superhuman BYU soccer players know just how much hard work it takes to be a part of something so special.