In his senior season at Midwestern State, forward Len Smith helped lead the Mustangs to a 13-4-2 season as one of their leading scoring threats.
But after graduation, he couldn’t give up the game of soccer.
“I’ve always loved the game, obviously since a very young age about 4 or 5 when I started playing, all the way through,” Smith said. “My taste and appetite for the game has only grown. As it kept growing and I was losing it as a player, I was thinking of the next way to transition and getting involved in coaching was the best thing.”
Smith is the head coach of an FC Premier Soccer Club right here in Wichita Falls.
“Getting involved with my boys that I now have over the last two years, the way we’ve come together and they’ve trained to say that I expected us to be here so soon, I’d probably be lying. Man, their growth has been exponential and the sky is the limit,” said Smith. The sky is the limit for these boys.”
The sky is the limit, is right. His 04’s qualified and are preparing to compete against teams from across the country, this week in the Dallas Cup.
“We feel confident about ourselves,” said FC Premier center forward Samuel Pacheco. “We feel that when we go to the finals, we’ll win it.”
And they said they owe their success to their head coach.
“He has a lot of experience in soccer and so, it just helps us grow more as a kid and more into a man,” said Bricen Vialpando, a center back, for FC Premier.
“He comes out and plays with us, so we’ll know how it feels to play at a high level.”
“He teaches us a lot, he’s a good coach,” Pacheco said. “He’s been proving us each practice.”
“Like the training, the fitness of us, and the communication.”
“What I’ve learned, a big thing at Midwestern from Coach [Doug] Elder and Coach [Michael] Meachum, was discipline, discipline, discipline and doing things the right way all the time,” Smith said. “That’s a big thing I teach these boys. It’s not OK to do the right thing half the time, some of the time, or when the eyes or on you. Whenever the eyes are turned away, are you doing the right thing.”
“I think I got taught the competitive game too late myself. I think I could’ve been better than what I was, but I was missing the little nuances of the game at this age. Where I could go teach these boys discipline, what it means to train, what it means to take care of your bodies, eat well, hydrate, sleep, all the good stuff. Stretch as their bodies are growing.”
And the players said they’re most happy they can do all those things in Wichita Falls, because just a couple of years ago they had to travel to play this level of youth soccer..
“It feels good,” Pacheco said. “We have to travel, if anything just 4 minutes to practice.”
“I like it more because I don’t have to travel as much and it’s not a big deal with school,” Vialpando said. “I won’t have to miss school or be tired the next day. I can just wake up and come out here and have a good day.”