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Soccer has always been more than just a sport for me. As I reflect on my time playing the game, I have fond memories. Most of the memories don’t have anything to do with a final score, the goals scored, or any accomplishments.

I played soccer my whole childhood, was lucky enough to play in college, and coached. I was on some great teams, and I was on some teams that spent a lot of time getting the ball out of our own net. Honestly, the results certainly mattered then but are a distant memory today. The impactful moments that left imprints in my mind are the key lessons learned from the beautiful game that I carry with me in every aspect of my life.


I miss my friendships with teammates the most of any experience on the soccer field. The teamwork and camaraderie remain unmatched at every level. I miss the long bus rides after games in college. Making tee shirts before our high school homecoming game in my parents’ garage. The sleepovers. Staying up late playing FIFA. Playing pickup after classes. Traveling to Europe for twenty days to play in several tournaments with my teammates. I remember my high school coach in tears pulling me out of math class to tell me I made all-conference. These are the memories where you wish you could jump back in time and dig in just a little bit more.

Luckily, many of these friendships have only grown stronger since my soccer days. My longtime roommate and teammate Michael Rodrigues was the best man at my wedding. His impact on my life is immeasurable. Not long ago, I played eighteen holes of golf with some former teammates. When the world goes back to normal, I have a long overdue beer with my college coach waiting. These relationships matter and originated from my time on the pitch. The time spent, common goals, and shared interests fostered these friendships.


I remember not sleeping before state championship games. I remember showing up to Olympic Development Program (ODP) tryouts and staring down the state’s best players. I remember the conditioning tests in the pouring rain. Soccer taught me how to compete. I was never the best, tallest, most athletic player at any age on any team. I honestly can say today I don’t have one ounce of natural soccer ability in my body. But I loved to play. I loved to compete. I loved to lift weights in the offseason, run with the sunrise at 6 a.m., and pass the ball against the garage. Most of the time the pursuit of getting better was just as enjoyable as the sport itself.

Today I compete in business. While I don’t have conditioning tests on the track anymore – and my team isn’t full of athletes, the same principles apply. I have worked in senior living for the last eleven years. Competing in my world takes discipline, determination, self-starting, teamwork, and the right tactics. We each have a role and collaborate to achieve success. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, every day competing to drive consistent results.


I remember not making a team I tried out for. I remember my first red card (well-deserved) and costing my team the game. I remember losing in the state finals three years in a row. I remember sitting in my college coach’s office and him telling me honestly why I wasn’t good enough to play in our upcoming games. I remember laying on a hospital bed waiting for surgery on my knee. I remember sitting in a church supporting our teammate who lost his mom to cancer.

Conflict surrounds us every day. Whether personally or professionally conflict is a part of everyday life. I had a coach that consistently said “setbacks are only challenges in disguise”. While conflict and challenges look a little bit different today the response remains the same – picking yourself off the turf and attacking life with energy and enthusiasm.


If I didn’t pick up a soccer ball at five years old I imagine I would’ve learned these lessons in a different way. Would I have developed the same drive to keep going, no matter what obstacles come my way? Would I have made incredible lifelong friendships? Would I be able to reflect on my youth and college years with as much fondness? I like to think I would, because no matter our unique passions, there’s a space for us to learn, grow, and become exactly who we want and need to be. Throughout it all my parents (Roberta and Dennis) spent tireless time and seemingly endless money to support me throughout my soccer experiences. I hope the reward today is knowing that soccer helped shaped their son’s life.

Someday you’ll reflect like I am today on your lessons learned from soccer. Hoping this pandemic ends soon so you can jump on a co-ed indoor team to get a run in. I hope you have the same experience I did. At 34 years old, I hope my two girls want to lace up the cleats and give it a shot. It could just have a lasting impact on their lives – just like dad.

Thomas Cloutier 
Willamette University Alum
Former Portland City United, Oregon ODP, Westview High School, Thusc (United) Player
Former Westside Metros and PCU Coach
VP of Sales & Marketing at Avamere

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