Before this season, senior forward Michael Washington had never even seen a Hickman boys’ soccer game.
But 12 games into the Kewpies’ season, the 5-foot-10 inch forward is leading the team in scoring with six goals.
Washington, the point guard for the Kewpie basketball team, decided he would play his senior season at the urging of his friend and teammate Jay Johnson.
Washington had played soccer with teammate Travis Tegerdine, but quit playing when he was 13 to focus on basketball.
Tegerdine and Washington played together during their grade school days for the Stampede, and Tegerdine remembered Washington’s skill back then.
“He was a pretty good scorer, a lot like he is now,” Tegerdine said. “I remember times when he would dribble all the way down the whole field and score.”
Johnson remembers how dangerous Washington could be as an opponent.
“You always knew when you were playing Michael Washington’s team,” Johnson said. “He was always a threat on the field back then when he was little.”
Although Tegerdine was aware of Washington’s ability from the Stampede days, he didn’t know how well Washington would be able to play when he came back.
“I wasn’t exactly sure how good he would be because he hadn’t played in such a long time,” Tegerdine said.
Johnson took it upon himself to get Washington acclimated to the game again.
“Even before summer camp, we went out and he helped me with my skills that he said the coaches emphasized,” Washington said. “The practice really helped because on the first day of summer camp, I was able to execute some of the drills because I had practiced them with Jay.”
Johnson knew Washington had the potential to be a great player.
“He had the skill in him. We just had to dust it off a little,” Johnson said. “I knew the game would come back to him.”
Coach Jon Strodtman recognized Washington’s efforts during Hickman’s summer camp and realized that he had a player that would be able to contribute.
“You could tell he put some extra time into it,” Strodtman said.
While it may be rare for a player to lead his team in scoring after never playing before in high school, Strodtman isn’t too surprised with his senior’s success.
“He is a talented athlete,” Strodtman said. “He makes up for his rustiness with tenacity.”
Although the extra practice benefited Washington, he still struggles with some of the finer points of the game.
“At first it was a little frustrating, but the coaches talked to me and gave some pointers on how to get back into the game,” Washington said. “I am still having problems getting my passes and touches down. Ball control has been the hardest thing so far.”
Even though Washington has struggled with harnessing some of his skills this season, he still maintains high expectations for himself.
“Good enough isn’t good enough for Michael,” Strodtman said. “When he doesn’t score when he thinks he should, he gets aggravated.”
Washington regrets that his senior year will be his first and last year playing for the Kewpies.
“I kind of beat myself up for not coming out sooner,” Washington said. “I wish I would have come out sooner.”