When I heard that Nathan Davis had stepped down this winter as Woodinville soccer coach, I felt bummed out. In my time with the Woodinville Weekly, Davis had been one of my favorite people.
To understand my appreciation, we must take stock of my background. I practically emerged from the womb as a football, basketball and baseball guy. My earliest memories as a kid revolve around wearing a football helmet, carrying a football and careening off walls to simulate getting tackled.
I tried soccer once in the first grade. A sunny afternoon at the Bellevue Boys Club. I played in half a scrimmage before approaching the coach in dismay. I told him I didn’t see the point to all this. I said I was going to wait for my dad to pick me up.
When I was in college, two of my best friends were from Quebec and France, respectively. They locked me in a room with them to watch the World Cup. They thought they could convert me. They thought wrong.
When I came to the Woodinville Weekly in 2013, my background was in writing articles and books about (American) football. I had minimal experience with high school sports. I looked at the sports schedule for Woodinville. Sure enough, they had a soccer team and it needed to be covered. A sense of dread arose.
But Woodinville was coached by Nathan Davis. He oversaw both the boys and girls teams. He was affable, energetic, loved soccer and really cared about the kids. He really got into games. When things went well, he emoted pure joy. When things went sideways, the anguish would commandeer his face. His shouts at the refs would resound throughout Pop Keeney Stadium. The pain was real. It was good theater.
During our post game interviews, Davis gave detailed, colorful answers that made my job easy. But as time went on, our talks evolved into teaching sessions. I found myself asking questions not just for my articles, but also to increase my knowledge.
Former UW linebacker Dave Hoffmann once said that his coach Jim Lambright helped him understand how to read an offensive line. Don’t just key on one player, but read the entire line as if it was an animal with moving parts. In so doing, Hoff could quickly comprehend what play an offense was running.
Davis provided me a similar education about soccer. I started to see the field not as individual players running around aimlessly and flopping, but as one animal with moving parts. I began to see the game within the game.
Now don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that I now follow the Sounders. Or that I shout “Scarves Up!” to strangers at Haggen. But I do appreciate soccer a lot more.
Last fall, when Woodinville knocked off unbeaten Issaquah, I felt true excitement from the game. And thrilled from those tense final minutes. Talk about a change. That’s what came from being around Nathan Davis for four years.