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XI Questions: Tom Grogg

08/15/2007, 11:07pm CDT
By NATHAN LEAF

Board president/field coordinator, Millennium Soccer Club

Age: 64.

Hometown: Born in Bristol, Va., grew up in Johnson City, Tenn. Physical education teacher in Madison Metropolitan School District for 32 years. Joined Millennium Soccer Club in 2001.Millennium is a non-profit club that offers organized soccer to low-income elementary and middle school children in the Madison area.

I. Did you grow up playing soccer?

When I grew up in Tennessee, no one knew what soccer was. No one knew what a soccer ball looked like. It was not even on the radar screen. I played football and ran track and did a little basketball. But there was no soccer anywhere. But now my community back home, they have a pretty good soccer program. But that's many years later.

II. Why did you get involved with Millennium?

Well, probably mostly based on my experience of coaching MAYSA-level teams with my kids. And my classes at Lincoln, as part of the curriculum, would provide kids with different ways to move the ball with your feet. Different soccer-related stuff. And I stayed with soccer because to me it's a player's sport, in contrast to football. Football is very much a coaches' sport, when you think about it: gameplans, calling plays, the whole 9 yards. You can't do that. You have some set plays in soccer, but it's a much more creative sport in terms of the players needing to make decisions on the spot. ... On top of that, you have a very physically demanding sport.

III. As a gym teacher, why do you think kids should play soccer?

In terms of their physical fitness, it's a great activity. And I just like activities where kids are able to make decisions on their own. I think too much, these days, there's an emphasis on parents or coaches controlling what kids are learning and what kids are doing. And it puts too much pressure on them and I think really works against their enjoyment.

IV. Why is Millennium important to Madison?

There are some real barriers to some of these kids being able to participate (in organized soccer). And one is transportation. How do you get to your game? Another is cost. So what we try to do at Millennium is minimize the negative aspects of those barriers. For example, with the neighborhood programs, they always come to the same site, and that's where they go to school. So a lot of the kids walk.

V. What has been your favorite moment with the club?

One of my favorite moments was being able to pull together our first all-girls soccer team. And it was good in that all of the players came out of the neighborhood program. We were able to find a coach and get that program up and running this past fall.

VI. What is the best goal you have seen?

In one of our U-12 games last fall, one of our forwards crossed into the box and the forward (Juan Aguirre) on the other side of the goal made a one-touch with the outside of his foot into the right corner of the ball. He knew that he could flick that thing in the corner. ... It was a marvelous play.

VII. What are the issues facing Millennium right now?

Well, we always have a funding issue. This year we have a budget that is a little over $37,000. That is a substantial amount of money to try to raise. And frankly we didn't have as much money as we could have used. In the past we had provided a summer camp through BreakAway, but we don't have enough to do that this year.

VIII. How do you raise the money?

It's a pretty broad base of support. We've gotten two grants through the U.S. Soccer Foundation, which has been very helpful. We've gotten grants through several groups in town, the Evjue Foundation, Courtier Foundation. We've gotten money from the city's Office of Community Services — they help fund indoor soccer every year for us. Businesses like TDS, Group Health Cooperative and service groups like the Downtown Rotary Foundation, the Optimist Club. Individuals give us money. MAYSA every year contributes money. Regent Soccer Club has been a very important supporter. There are pretty broad range of groups that have come forward to support us. Part of our challenge will be to broaden that support so people have a way in which they can help us out.

IX. Has your support been growing?

It has been growing, but we're such a small group that we don't always have the number of volunteers that it would take to do the outreach that would increase our funding quite a bit. I'm hopeful that as people become more aware of what we're trying to accomplish that our base of support will broaden. I think another question for us is how do we broaden the program ourselves? We are basically located on the south side of Madison. Is there going to be a time when we try to go to some of these other neighborhoods?

X. Where would you like to see the club in 10 years?

If we had sufficient numbers of knowledgeable soccer people to help coordinate expansion of the program into those other neighborhoods, I'd like to see that.

XI. Is it difficult to find coaches?

It's a challenge. We've been fortunate that we've been able to come up with five MAYSA-level teams. And I think we've got five coaches that are really working out well. It was a scramble to find coaches on a couple of occasions. But there are a lot of people we're starting to hear from who are interested in becoming a coach.

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