Smoky Mountains Soccer Academy

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Last spring, Smoky Mountains Soccer Academy started operating in Gatlinburg, at the multi-million dollar facility known as Rocky Top Sports World. It costs $100 per child for ten weeks. The practice is one hour on a weekday. They have no games over the weekend.

Smoky Mountain Soccer Academy - players and coaches

Smoky Mountain Soccer Academy – my son’s group of players and coaches

The main coach is a teacher and a soccer coach in the public school system and he said, “I believe weekends are for the family. Plus, I need my weekends off. I’m a teacher.” I could not agree with him more. Continue reading »

Soccer Camp

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Last week, my children attended Soccer Camp. The official title of this event was Elite Camp and it was organized by Smoky Mountain Soccer Academy. They met Monday-Friday, 9am-11am.

Soccer camp for ages 3-6

My daughter (red shirt) with her age group and Coach Zach plus assistants.

The weather was nice. We had two days with overcast skies, so the sun did not beat on us too badly. However, my children still got quite a tan during the rest of the days, despite the sunblock I applied on their faces, arms, and legs. Continue reading »

Soccer as P.E. – Interview with Coach Mike McDonald

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What about P.E. when you homeschool? Personally, I think that physical education can very well be accomplished in the back yard, and in nature, through biking, hiking, swimming, walking and running. Tossing a ball at the playground and pulling up on monkey bars should count as physical exercise, as well.
Besides all that, I wanted my son involved in a team sport. In addition to physical activity, he gets to be in a group, listen to instructions, and feel like he is a part of something bigger than himself. As a European, I felt more interested in soccer than American football or baseball.
We found a local Christian school which offers a soccer camp through the summer and a soccer practice once a week through the school year. They welcome homeschoolers. My son does not have to be on their school soccer team, but he gets to mingle with all these kids and learn some soccer skills, which help with coordination and gross motor skills.
Here’s my interview with my son’s soccer coach, Mike McDonald, originally from England:
Homeschool Ways: How did an English professional soccer player end up as a soccer coach at Berean Christian School in Knoxville, TN?Mike McDonald: I came to the US in 1996, working for a soccer camp coaching company that employs British coaches, called British Soccer. We did camps all over the US and, amongst others, I did a camp in Morristown. The family I spent a week with were determined to keep me in the US, so they tried to get me a ‘blind date!’ They chose Lori, who is now my wife.

Soccer Coach Mike McDonald

Coach Mike McDonald and some of his students


Homeschool Ways: That is wonderful! Please tell us more about your family.

Mike McDonald: Lori and I have been happily married for 15 years. EllieAnn, 11, is an avid reader. She loves playing with her sister, enjoys basketball and soccer, and especially hanging out with her MUM! LivyLea is 9 and is a creative girl, always making and creating. She loves her sister equally. They make up many songs and are great with their brother, too. Livy is a basketball fan and is making big strides! Maxwell, 4, is focused on being silly and stubborn, but super lovable! He follows his sisters around and stands too close to the TV!


Soccer Coach Mike McDonald and family

Coach Mike McDonald and family


Homeschool Ways: I know you are a Christian and you work for two private Christian schools. How do you apply biblical principles to playing soccer? Is competition of any sort compatible with biblical principles?

Mike McDonald: I see soccer as a fantastic vehicle to reach people for Jesus. I see the roller coaster of emotions that sport offers and feel that it is often the toughest environment for us. This gives me a platform to encourage young people in better ways to act and react in the tough times. My personal biblical integration has simply been, ‘What would Jesus do.’

Athletes, especially those at Berean Christian School, struggle with the competitive nature as Christians. I think Jesus would have been a competitor and simply followed the rules. He may have accidentally fouled, perhaps even injured an opponent, but it would not have been in His heart.

This is perhaps the opportunity I use most at BCS. ‘As long as you are playing within the rules, don’t be concerned about hurting others. If you are, then you will not play to your potential.’ Jesus doesn’t talk directly about sports in His Word, but He does address following rules and doing your best in ALL that you do.

I teach children about controlling their reactions, acting correctly when the game is over, and, particularly, understanding the power of positive words on and off the field. I believe Jesus would have been hard working, committed, a team player, and positive of mind, especially in encouraging others.


Soccer Coach Mike McDonald's children

Coach Mike’s adorable children


Homeschool Ways: What about the argument that when one plays sports, one has to act like one goes right just to trick the opponent and get them off balance, so that one can actually go left?

Mike McDonald: I believe that sports were created for enjoyment and to test/challenge us in adversity. I do not see ‘tricking an opponent’ as a biblical negative, but as a necessary method that is ‘within the laws’ of successfully beating them. For me, it is about your heart. If throwing a player off balance is allowed in the rules and you are doing it with the right heart (to attempt success) rather than to embarrass/have ego, then it is good. I see it more as a challenge for the opponent. How is he/she going to deal with being beaten?


Homeschool Ways: What about the argument that team sports are like re-enacting battles – except the punches are missing?

Mike McDonald: Soccer can feel and often look like a battle re-enactment! Again, it is the heart that reveals. If you approach soccer with an overly aggressive spirit and focus on hurting, then you are wrong. Those teams that succeed in pleasing Christ, I feel, are those whose hearts are right in that they have set their minds in being successful within the rules.


Homeschool Ways: Which team did you think would win the World Cup?

Mike McDonald: Having seen the World Cup, I must say that I thought Argentina were going to beat Chile in the Final. It did not surprise me that Germany won. They were the best team beforehand, and found their form to prove it by winning!