MU volunteer coach's passion for soccer trumps his busy schedule

Thursday, September 22, 2011 | 7:52 p.m. CDT
Danny Graville, volunteer assistant coach for the Missouri women's soccer team, observes drills at the team's practice on Wednesday at Faurot Field. This is Graville's third season with the team.

COLUMBIA — Danny Graville gets off work at 2:45 Wednesday morning. He hardly has free time; his schedule includes pursuing a college degree and working three jobs.

And he only gets paid for one of them.

But Graville doesn't complain. He is doing what he loves.

Graville, a 37-year-old St. Louis native, is a volunteer assistant coach for the Missouri women's soccer team, a position he has held — without pay — for the past three years. He has a full-time job at a company that manages two popular bars in the Columbia downtown area. He coaches children and teenagers at a private soccer club. And he is taking online classes to get his college degree.

"I guess I just like to keep really busy," Graville said with a grin.

Graville, one of only six volunteer coaches among Missouri athletics programs, does have a lot of responsibilities.

With the Missouri soccer team, Graville's main duty is to help head coach Bryan Blitz coach the strikers. He is also in charge of the team's pool training and recovery sessions. Occasionally, he helps out with other aspects of the team, including the multimedia and the operations departments.

At games, Graville does many things. At one moment, he is standing on the sidelines giving instructions to the players. The next moment, he is handing out water or Gatorade. He even returns the occasional ball to the field.

"Basically, I do whatever is asked of me," Graville said. "I'm just here to make sure that we get wins, that the players get taken care of and worry as little as possible."

Graville's work for the team is just a part of the story, though.

Graville also works full time for Willies Fieldhouse Inc., a company in charge of managing Willie's and The Field House, two bars in downtown Columbia. He has been involved in the restaurant business since he moved to Columbia 14 years ago. He said he enjoys being around young people.

"It's neat," Graville said. "It keeps me young. It keeps me in the loop with what's going on with the kids."

That young spirit seems to combine well with his ability to manage so many things at the same time.

"I do like to do a lot of things," Graville said. "But not so much that I am super stressed out and can't focus on what I'm doing."

Graville said understanding his responsibilities and paying attention to detail are the keys to doing a good job for the team. He is a big fan of discipline, competitiveness, and above all, organization.

"There is something special about getting a win — the preparation that goes into it, the organizational pieces of it," Graville said, snapping his fingers energetically. "We spent an hour today fine-tuning the schedule for the weekend, just to make sure that it was on point and we all knew our duties and everything is efficient."

Beyond organization, what drives Graville is his passion for soccer. He credits sports for changing his life for the better.

"I have played (soccer) my whole life," Graville said. "Playing sports was a way for me to stay out of trouble as I was growing up. It was my solace. The moment I stepped on the lines, I stopped thinking about everything else. Bottom line, I don't know where I would be without it."

Before becoming a volunteer coach, Graville trained some former Missouri soccer players who eventually got drafted by professional teams, which got him noticed by Blitz three years ago. Now, helping coach the Tigers has given Graville a great opportunity to expand his professional horizons.

"The experience that I get from being around coach Blitz and the other coaches is just hands-down awesome," Graville said. "And I've made a lot of connections with other college coaches by being in the game."

Despite not being paid for what he does, Graville said he sees no difference between himself and the other coaches. He has his own responsibilities and gets the same treatment as any other member of the team.

The other coaches say Graville is committed to the Tigers.

"Danny loves what he does and is very knowledgeable," assistant coach Shaunna Daugherty said. "He is always eager to help out in any way that he can. He tries to find the positive in everything. He is just an all-around great guy."

Graville insists he is only a small part of a big Missouri team.

"It's not about me," Graville said. "It's about the players. They do it. We just help them do it. I have probably learned from them more than they have from me."

Graville said he would like to become a full-time soccer coach at the collegiate level and actually make a living off it, which is why he is pursuing his associate degree in general studies. It makes for a packed schedule, but he understands it is a step in the right direction.

"I want to get that piece of paper," Graville said. "It's pretty much a prerequisite to coach at a university. I'm willing to do whatever it takes to be a part of it."

In the meantime, Graville is happy about being a volunteer coach and where his job with the team has taken him.

"I do it because I really enjoy it," Graville said. "I'd do it for free forever."

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