Entering another chapter in the book called life

By Becky Embry-Ross
Sports Editor

For the most part, the saying, “Never judge a book by its cover,” rings true when fellow colleagues and athletes who have encountered Brad Smith, head soccer coach and physical education instructor, were asked to describe him both on and off the field.

“With Coach Smith, what you see is what you get,” said Millie Gilion, Athletic Director. “He’s just very consistent, the same disposition.”

That is, until one lifts the cover and begins to follow the character living within the pages that grows with each chapter.

“He doesn’t take himself too seriously,” said James Carter, assistant coach and Roughriders Alumni.

Following Smith as he tells about the chapters of his life brings surprises as he turns each page. In addition to being married and having a fifteen year old son that plays JV soccer at Neosho High, Smith has seen his share of seasons passing in the past years.

In each of those seasons Smith has earned three degrees, coached soccer teams at eight schools, three at which he started the soccer program, has been the Interim Chancellor while at one college, watched three of those schools close, started two fund raising campaigns (Thunderdome and Life without Limits), wrote a children’s book, currently working on another and was inducted into the Tarkio College Athletic Hall of Fame.

Life begins

Smith was born in East Orange, N.J. and started attending college at East Carolina University in 1971. He graduated in March 1975 earning a B.A. in Sociology.

He continued his education at East Carolina through ’77, graduating with a M.A. in Counselor Education. It was during this time that Smith was introduced to his future.

“There were about five or six of us that played racquetball around noon and the Athletic Director came down, he never came down there, and told me that he wanted to talk to me when we were done,” said Smith. “After we talked, I agreed to coach their soccer team.”

“I was the youngest Division I coach at the time. I had no idea what I was doing,” said Smith. “I thought I was going to be a counselor. I worked doing after care at the hospital and coached.”

From there Smith attended the University of Tennessee graduating in ’84 with a M.S. in motor Behavior and Sport Psychology. While there, Smith stated that he worked with his first wife signing with children that were deaf.


“Soccer has always been my anchor,” said Smith. “As long as I know I have soccer, the rest doesn’t matter to me.”

It shows, as the years have passed. Smith has started the soccer program for Si Tanka, Westmar University and Dakota Wesleyan University in addition to the program here at Crowder.

“He’s done a great job,” said Gilion. “He brought to our program a wealth of experience. It’s proved to be great for us and our program. They’re going to have success as long as he’s at the helm.”

“The biggest difference here is everybody supports you here. You don’t have to fight for everything here,” said Smith.

His current Roughriders openly talk about the experience that Smith brings to the field and how he brings a difference to the field.

Smith wastes no time candidly admitting, “The kids that have played for me will all probably tell you, that they all got a direct answer [from me],” said Smith, Head Soccer Coach and P.E. Instructor “And when there was an issue with them, I was always there. That doesn’t mean that they always liked what they were told.”

“He’s a tough coach that pushes you to always achieve your best. But, off the field, he’s really funny and always joking,” said Igor Pacca, freshman midfielder. “One thing I think that he does a great job at is the way he recruits new players. I think that he’s the best at it in Missouri.”

“[He’s] a very enthusiastic guy who has a passion for soccer and who loves to win,” said Philip Freeman, sophomore Goalkeeper. “He works more of the team as a whole instead of just the individual.”

During summer, Smith, after being nominated by one of his former players from Tarkio College, was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame.

As it was reported in a news release dated June 21, 2012, “I can’t tell you how honored I am and how happy this makes me,” said Smith in his acceptance speech. “I especially want to thank all of my former players. They have worked so hard to make this happen. I have been blessed. I have a wife and son that have allowed me to be involved with the game I love.”

In addition to coaching soccer at Crowder for the last five years, Smith fills his days recruiting and teaching physical education classes.

Smith admits that with teaching, “I get to see a lot of the kids that I don’t get to see.”

“The hardest thing is recruiting,” said Smith. “Recruiting is year round. We have one to two recruits at each game and ten to fifteen [recruits] at Thunderdome each year. At least once a month I’m going somewhere, not including local places.”

Smith continues to say, “I don’t take time off. I get antsy over Christmas break because it’s such a long time and I have nothing to do.”

Not all about soccer

In addition to being credited for starting soccer programs at various schools, Smith has begun fund raisers that allow his players to complete their community service hours while helping to raise funds and have fun.

In the spring, two of those fund-raising tournaments, Thunderdome and Life without Limits, take place while Kick it to Cancer is played in the fall.

“Thunderdome started at East Carolina because we were bored,” said Smith. “Last year was our 30th anniversary.”

According to Smith each fundraiser raises around $700 to $800. The money goes into the soccer funds and helps pay for various things that the program needs.

Smith also stated that the Kick it to Cancer fund raiser is for the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR).

In 2006 Smith was diagnosed with melanoma, a skin cancer caused from the sun.

“We got it early,” said Smith. “Credit my wife for being a nurse and making the doctor run the [necessary] tests on it. I have a couple of scars from it.”

Most are surprised to hear that Smith has written a children’s book, published in 2006, about what else but soccer titled, McClellan Park Dragons.

“I won the bet by writing it,” said Smith. “I had a lawyer, maybe he taught criminal justice I don’t remember, his office was next to mine and we got to be good friends. What can I say? I hate to lose.”

Smith admits that it only took him two or three months to write the first book but is working on the next book in his spare time.

Smith’s advice to his players and students is simple:

“Be flexible. You never know which way you’ll end up. Every decision opens new doors and closes some doors.”