If someone were to tell you about a college student who was more in love with soccer – and was more committed to soccer – than anyone else he went to school with, a college student who watched film like a coach and was always the first one at practice and the last one to leave, a college student who knew more about the sport than anyone else on the team, you would probably assume that this overachiever was a pretty good soccer player himself. At the least, you would assume that this young man was an integral part of his team.
Well, if you made the first assumption, you would be absolutely wrong in at least one instance. As for the second assumption? It’s tough to say, really – as the young man in this instance is Kyle Kauffman, and Kyle is not actually on the roster at all. At the same time, however, Kyle is as integral a part of the Stevenson Mustangs soccer team as the coach or the captains. As one of the players put it, Kyle is the heart and soul of their team.
At a young age, Kyle was diagnosed with cerebral palsy – and this has kept him from ever being able to play soccer in a truly competitive setting. That is, this had kept him from doing so, until the Stevenson Mustangs let him suit up and play the first few minutes in their final game of the 2012 season – a plan that had been in the works for months.
As one of the players on the Mustangs put it: Kyle had earned every right to suit up for the team. After all, it was no small thing Kyle did as the manager of the team, as his impact stretched far beyond simply sorting the team’s laundry and setting up cones for practice drills. Kyle also inspired the players to work their hardest, as they wanted to make sure Kyle never felt they were taking their athletic abilities for granted.
While they were practicing, after all, Kyle could sometimes be found off to the side, running suicide sprints to get ready for the one game he would play; and while some of the guys on the team might be sleeping in on a Saturday morning, Kyle could be found attending coaches’ meetings and helping them make decisions. One game, in fact, the coaches asked Kyle to decide which of their goalies should start the next game; they listened to Kyle’s suggestion, and won the game 3-1.
Perhaps there is a future in coaching for Kyle – where he can inspire another generation to work as hard as he has worked. After all, it is easy to make decisions based on the perceived lack of rewards that will come as a result of hard work, but anyone who has ever been around Kyle on the soccer field can tell you that rewards come in all shapes and sizes. And for Kyle, getting to play the first few minutes of a college soccer game was the biggest reward he could ever have imagined. Yes, maybe there is a future in coaching for Kyle – but for now, he has one label only: Kyle Kauffman, college soccer player.