Spike in the back-center with the Shrub Oak Shamrocks
By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
December 15, 2017-The failure of the United States to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in three decades has led to a great deal of soul-searching among the soccer community about how we develop players. Perhaps US Soccer should speak to George “Spike” Souls as the Yorktown Heights resident is known for bringing out the best in every player.
Because of this and the fact that he has volunteered his time since 1980, the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) is very pleased to announce Spike is being honored as our Personality of the Month in December. The 77-year-old has coached nearly 30 East Hudson Youth Soccer League (EHYSL) teams since 1980 and was inducted in to the EHYSL Hall of Fame in 2009.
“I became involved in coaching when my son Kevin, then eight years old, decided he wanted to play,” Spike commented. “I watched him play, took a course and the coach needed help so I became his assistant on the Yorktown Strikers. When the coach and his son moved on to a Division 1 team, my son had no coach so he said, ‘Why don’t you be the coach?’ And I agreed.”
Under his tutelage, the Strikers won two consecutive EHYSL division championships. Spike added, “The same situation happened with my daughter Ann Marie. My daughter’s coach moved on so since she had no coach, I became her coach on the Yorktown Honeybees.”
Spike went on to coach a girl’s team named the Yorktown Strikers, winning a few championships along the way in addition to an undefeated season. When Ann Marie was older, both of them together coached four- and five-year-old intramural players in Yorktown.
Around the turn of the millennium, Spike’s wife Eleanor asked him to take a break from coaching as their kids were grown up. That break lasted one season until the Shrub Oak Athletic Club asked him to become a coach. Spike served as Head Coach for the entire soccer program for nearly three years and his last coaching assignment, which concluded this past June, was coaching his granddaughter Anna.
“She had become a decent goalie and her final games will remain in my memory forever,” Spike stated.
In his 38 years of coaching, Spike made a career out of taking players who couldn’t make a competitive travel team, had very few soccer skills and lacked soccer sophistication tactically and devoted himself to instilling in them a love of the game and a desire to improve as athletes. He focused on development and making sure the kids were enjoying a learning experience and stretching themselves as athletes and individuals.
“Spike has had a long coaching career in youth soccer, at every level from league select down to beginning intramural,” explained former EHYSL President Ken Gulmi. “Although he has had championship teams in very competitive leagues, he has spent the latter part of his career coaching children who have little to no soccer experience simply to insure they had a place to play and develop and feel good about themselves. He cares little for trophies or recognition but measures his success by the progress of his players and revels in the joy on their faces as they gain self-confidence. Spike is the coach for whom we'd all like our children to play for and we could use many more like him.”
Spike coached hundreds of players since 1980, is still in touch with many of them and is most proud of the fact that eight of his former players, including his daughter, have gone on to become coaches. Consider that those eight coaches had a great role model and youth soccer is all the better for Spike’s profound influence.
“It’s been a joy to be a soccer coach,” Spike added. “Coaches should recognize to give individual kids the opportunity to score and get their 15 minutes of glory. I will put a defender who never scored in as a forward and to see his face upon scoring his first-ever goal is just wonderful.”
Today, Spike volunteers as a liaison for the Shrub Oak Athletic Club with organizations such as the EHYSL and local governments in developing fields.
“From my perspective, I am thrilled to play an active role in the development of sports facilities for our youth as I have always believed that any sport is an ideal positive outlet for our boys and girls. In a world where digital games are now challenging their fleeting free time, real live games are even more important than ever. There is no substitute for the joy one gets from physically mastering soccer or any sport. Ask the kid who won his division at our local Yorktown tournament if he prefers a digital victory. I know his answer and I also pray this personal joy is never replaced,” Spike stated.
Not bad for a guy who played a little pick-up soccer as a kid and never was on a formal team. And about his unusual nickname, it does not come from volleyball. Spike was more of a baseball player, and he gets his nickname from a word-play that baseball players wear spikes which have soles, his last name.
With over 100,000 youth soccer players––both boys and girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 11 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Children With Special Needs. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to http://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.