We created the Honor The Journey Award last year as a recognition for the player that, again, didn’t fit into some of the categories, but who other players can learn from. We wanted to share what this player did differently and how that played a role in their future as an athlete.

The award also reflects what we wanted to say about the LeftFoot experience—to signify that the standard solution is not always the right solution, and that doing something in a different way is part of the opportunity of LeftFoot and meets the player where they are at.

The players who have been nominated for this award are:

  • Grace Maxwell
  • Courtney Mohs
  • Elliot Kocecnik
  • Vivian Shinall
  • Sam Charles

I’ve spoken about Grace, VivianCourtney and Billy, but I’ll say a couple of things for them on this award.

Elliot Kocecnik was an athlete who started at the C2 level and moved through the Academy. His parents recognized that he was on a C2 team and needed some training. He came through during the 4.0 experience, when it was like 56 in that year. I think they used all 56 of it.

He loved being at LeftFoot. He definitely benefited from the Academy progression, moving through Foundation, Combo and Creative. He was a very humble player as he came through the Academy, and he developed under Carlos, Charlie and Andy for the most part.

I didn’t really work with him until about Creative Series in his last year and then he moved away probably that summer. He moved to Colorado. I don’t know what’s in the water over there because he grew about four feet. He was probably at my chest when he first started at the Academy and then he’s way taller than me now!

He came back last year during the MasterMind Session and told me, “I just wanted to come back. I heard you were closing, what a shame. I just want to let you know that you guys made a big impact in my life. I’m playing for a development academy in Colorado, and I’ve never found anything like LeftFoot. There’s never been anything like LeftFoot and probably never will be, but I’m glad you’re still here.” I think that really made a difference for me to know that someone wanted to see us kind of survive, and it has made a big difference in his life.

We put him in there because we didn’t know whether he fits into the great player of the varsity. But at the same time we thought Courtney and Grace on this part of Honor the Journey because they all had a struggle that they overcame. Grace may not be on the front page of the paper, but she’s a phenomenal player. Courtney Mohs, same thing. She’s not going to be on the front page of the paper, as she didn’t have the premier status—they did a really good job at Holy Angel, every year she was there, they’d always run into that class. They came they had all the momentum. She’s part of a phenomenal intern group, too.

Sam Charles is a great kid and I am super proud of all the hard work he put into his experience with LeftFoot. LeftFoot was built for kids like Sam, a multi-sport athlete who’s dedicated and wants to work hard. He ended up not playing club, but still played at LeftFoot everyday to get better. Sam is an inspiration to every kid who wants to play varsity soccer and still be true to ALL of their passions!

We wanted to honor their journey because we saw these players as just really great examples of the LeftFoot way and what our goals were—to say that there was no throwaway kid, no throwaway players, and there’s an opportunity for you to always have a home here. There’s a thing that we need to change in youth soccer and recognize that technique beats talent, and that your talent can come from the players who master technique.

I think all the players that are nominated for this award would qualify. With Elliot being in that group, part of that honor the journey of is having the passion and the will. The same thing with Courtney, who has shown a lot of courage and resilience.

For me, why are you here? What are you going to do and how are you going to become who you wanted to be? As I tell everyone here, I never know who my great coaches are going to become. But she’s a phenomenal character and I hope she is recognized in our Hall of Fame for some award at some point.

Get in touch with a REKS House/Hall of Fame Committee member via [email protected] to reserve your seat. See you at the event later.