Stillwater News Press

Sports

July 12, 2014

Thomas family enriched by soccer

STILLWATER, Okla. — Soccer has been a big part of the Thomas family and that looks to continue for years to come as three of the four sons are currently involved in the sport.

Stillwater resident Mark Thomas and his four sons were involved with the Pioneer Soccer Academy, which ended Friday, for another year. It’s been a summer pasttime for many families, who have or have had multiple children as campers or team leaders at the annual soccer camp hosted by SHS head coach Seth Condley.

“I don’t know numbers, but there are a lot of families here that have been involved in soccer for a long time,” Condley said. “It’s not something we promote. It just happens.

“It’s a cycle of you pass something on to your kids and hopefully they pick up on it,” he added. “It doesn’t have to be soccer, but just traditions of your family. That’s what we are hoping to continue to build upon with these kids.”

The Thomas family is one of those that has made soccer a tradition. Mark played when he was young before beginning his coaching career. He formerly coached soccer at Cushing before becoming one of the coaches for the Stillwater Soccer Club.

During his time as a head coach, Mark and his wife gave birth to four sons, the oldest of whom is 16 years old and the youngest is 9 years old. All four of his sons – Caleb, Garrett, Tanner and Keegan – began playing soccer at a young age. Three of them have continued to play, while Garrett took up tae kwon do as a hobby.

“I’ve coached them all at different points along the way,”  Mark said. “It has some interesting dynamics with it. You want to make sure you’re not being overly critical of them or have higher expectations of them than you do others. You have to make sure what you’re asking of them is appropriate at that age level.

“Then also make them see that they need to be a leader on the field as well,” he added. “I think all of my boys that play soccer have adapted that attitude of wanting to be a leader on the field. They may not be the best player, but definitely understanding the game of soccer, along with the flow and positioning. You can see that come out when they play.”

Mark’s knowledge and passion for soccer spread to his sons. It’s the main reason they began playing and have a continued interest in the sport.

“My dad is a huge soccer fan and he played a lot of soccer and coached soccer for decades, so he’s loved it and I was brought up in it,” Caleb said. “I kind of fell in love with it a couple years ago when I started playing on a competitive team and I started playing with some really good people.”

Caleb and his father have even enjoyed time during the past month watching the FIFA 2014 World Cup. Although, Caleb sometimes wishes his father would think less like a coach and more like a fan.

“It’s funny, with the World Cup going on right now, my dad is watching all of those games and talking about them,” Caleb said. “He’s watching and talking about who’s playing where, positions on the field and coaching decisions. I’m like, ‘Dad, shut up and just enjoy it.’”

In addition to a typical father-son relationship off of the field, Mark and his sons have the same relationship on the field.

“I think it’s made me a lot better, because my dad’s been doing it forever,” Tanner said. “In coaching me, he’s been able to give me a lot ofpointers.”

Caleb agreed, saying he’s enjoyed having his father as a coach.

“Never had any problems,” Caleb said of having his father as his club coach. “People thought it woudn’t be fun. I guess, if I hated my dad, then it wouldn’t be fun. We have a pretty solid relationships, so for me it’s awesome just because he’s a great example, not just in soccer but in life. I’m glad that I get to have that constantly and I think my teammates like the image that he projects.”

Condley admitted he has a similar relationship with his children when it comes to soccer. His daughter and two of his sons were campers at the PSA this week, as his youngest son isn’t old enough to be a camper...yet.

“It’s pretty cool for three of the four to be out here,” Condley said. “It’s cool to be able to watch them and see how they develop and in what areas they are improving upon. I think they are having fun with their groups and it’s a good time.

“They look up to the high school kids,” he added. “It’s funny who they cling onto and every year it’s different people. I’ve been doing it for 11 years now so it’s cool to see their growth and which kids they like and look up to.”

While improving soccer skills is the primary goal of the camp, campers and team leaders know the friendships and relationships, even with family members, is arguably the best part of the soccer academy.

“It’s great and it keeps them active and gives them something to do,”  Mark said. “They have lots of friendships out here. It’s an extremely well run program. There some individual things and some team work things. Seth runs this very well every year.”

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