Captivated by the way the players of Manchester United moved the soccer ball down the field, Weplay’s Coach of the Week, Earl Gardner, quickly realized soccer was the sport for him after watching only one game.
Throughout his soccer career, Earl has been a part of many different teams spanning the globe. He began kicking the soccer ball around the schoolyard and eventually found his way to the British (Royal) Air Force team and continued to sharpen his skills by playing soccer for teams in England, Wales and Germany.
Making the shift from player to coach was a smooth transition for Earl.
“My love of the game and experience in playing naturally made me want to get more involved in the coaching side of the things,” Earl says. “I think once you get involved with the other young players, their enthusiasm and drive to learn how to play the game naturally makes you want to stick with it and to try to get the best out of each and every player on your team.”
When Earl’s son showed an affinity for the game of soccer at age four, Earl decided he would become a Pee-Wee soccer coach. Earl has since coached recreational teams, travel soccer teams and he currently coaches the Lee County Strikers Under 14 Boys team for the Fort Myers Untied Soccer Association League in Fort Myers, FL.
The Lee County Strikers Under 14 Boys have had many successful games and most recently were runner up in the U14 Boys D3 South Division of the United Soccer Association League in Florida. The team also earned runner up in the Silver Division of the Naples Sharks Shootout tournament in Naples at the beginning of the season and clinched the U14 Boys Championship at the Braden River Halloween Havoc tournament in Lakewood Ranch, FL.
“We hope to do well...and to finish off the season with a good showing at the Florida Region C tournament,” Earl says.
Exceptional athletes put in a lot of hard work and dedication to master their craft as do the coaches who teach the athletes. While attempting to bring out the best in each player, some coaches are rewarded by discovering new ways and techniques to become better at what they do. These rewards make coaching more meaningful and Earl recalls one experience in particular.
One of Earl’s players began last season as an underdog, underestimated and overlooked as team captain, but with tremendous effort the player showed his coach and his team that this year he is team captain material. Earl claims he was wrong to underestimate this player.
“I think that particular player has taught me that you are never too old or too experienced to admit you were wrong,” Earl says. “So this new learning experience was a good one for me.”
Drawing from a plethora of soccer memories, Earl says one of his best experiences was when a team he was coaching ran into an unfortunate situation with unlucky player injuries and he was forced to send in the reserve goalkeeper as an emergency striker.
“Having never even practiced in that position he ended up scoring the winning goal with the last kick of the game,” Earl says. “And to see him share that moment of glory with his teammates was really an amazing experience for me, which will stay in my mind forever.”
When Earl is not teaching his team how to bend it like Beckham, he runs a web development company called Alchemy Digital Media in Fort Myers. His company designs websites for businesses, but Earl especially enjoys designing sites for sports clubs like the Lee County Strikers.
Earl says he has the best wife and kids anyone could ask for. He is married to Rosi and has two children, Callum, 14, and Danielle, 22. In his spare time he plays online chess and watches English Premier League games on TV.
“I have supported Manchester United since watching my first ever game of soccer on TV back in 1968 - The European Cup Final,” Earl says. “I was a Manchester United season ticket holder back in the 1980's so I got to see them play every other week at Old Trafford.”
Coach Earl Gardner’s Three Keys For Success:
1. Never forget that this is about the kids we coach and not our own egos.
2. Try to improve your knowledge by watching more experienced coaches.
3. Never coach the fun out of the game for the kids. It's great to be successful, it is even greater for the kids to love the game and have fun while they are playing it.
Earl’s Thoughts on Weplay:
Weplay saves me and our team manager so much time by being able to set up our game times early in the season and schedule the reminders to go out automatically. As the great Ron Popeil once said --"You can set it and forget it!"
Click here to nominate the next Coach of the Week!