The U16 Waynesville Hurricanes start strong against the Dixon Bulldogs. Brad Hicks stands watching on the sidelines Saturday morning at Cosmopolitan Park, taking the chance to observe a hometown team.
The coach of the Waynesville/St. Roberts Predators U14 youth soccer team loves the atmosphere and excitement that comes with the Show-Me State Games, and that’s why he’s attended the past six years.
Waynesville, a small town next to Fort Leonard Wood, doesn’t have a large population to pull talent from, Hicks said.
“But they have a lot of heart,” Charles Kristek, chairperson of the Waynesville recreational board chimed in.
Hicks, a retired Army drill sergeant, can’t yell at his players without his gruff voice getting too hoarse.
“Growing up near the base though, we get a lot of kids who’ve got some green (Army) in their family, and that helps make the team stronger,” Hicks said.
Many of the players have been together for a long time, however being near the base also means some of the best players might only be around a year or two before the family has to move.
At half, the Hurricanes are up 4-1, and it’s visible. While Waynesville jogs in, Dixon slowly walks back to the bench, acknowledging their performance in the first half.
Hicks takes every opportunity to travel with the team to places like Springfield and Columbia.
“Bigger towns have this real deep talent pool, real strong kids, so we learn a lot,” Hicks said.
He started playing soccer when he was 11 in Coffeyville, Kan. As a coach, the sport remains rewarding. A defense contractor by day, Hicks says he is constantly thinking about soccer.
“When I have downtime at the airport for work, I’m looking at lineups and charts,” Hicks said.
The last time he actually played in a game, his wife told him beforehand, “Brad, you’re going to hurt yourself.” The warning came true. A scar on Hicks’ left shoulder is a reminder of a broken collarbone he suffered in a fall during a scrimmage.
When the Hurricanes win, Hicks leaves to go rally his team. They have to prepare for two matches in the afternoon.