COLUMBUS, Miss. – Tom Velek has come a long way from having to be coaxed into coaching his son’s soccer team to being named national coach of the year for US Youth Soccer for boys.
Velek was the recipient of the 2012 US Youth Soccer Recreation Coach of the Year Award for Boys at the US Youth Soccer Awards Gala recently held in Indianapolis. The event was held in conjunction with the 2013 US Youth Soccer Workshop at the National Soccer Coaches Association of American Convention.
He is the first coach from Mississippi to win a national youth coaching award. He was up against coaches from all over the country. In December, he was named Southeastern Region Coach of the year.
That’s pretty impressive for Mississippi University for Women’s Gordy Honors College director, who only played a little bit of soccer at his high school in Illinois.
“When I went to high school, soccer wasn’t ever recognized as a high school sport. It was more of an exhibition sport,” he said. “I was a wrestler and ran cross country in high school to prepare for wrestling. That was my sport.”
Velek got into coaching soccer after his oldest son Avery signed up with the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority. He and other parents learned through a letter that their children’s team needed a coach in order to play. Velek met with the CLRA’s program director and decided to give coaching a shot. The rest is history.
Since that time, Velek, with the help of others in the community and the CLRA, have worked to make soccer all that it can be in Columbus.
His philosophy: “If you are going to do something, be excellent. Don’t be mediocre.”
As the father of two sons who are both involved in soccer, Velek’s focused on coaching development and helping teach others about soccer. He works closely with Terry Eguaoje, state technical director of coaching and player development with the Mississippi Soccer Association.
“The mantra that we preach is player development,” he explained. “Coaching is an art form. It’s a science. What you can do with a 6-year-old is very different than what you can do with a 16-year-old.”
The approach has paid off. His teams have won two Northern District championships with a U-12 and a U-14 boys team, two MSA Coaches Cup championships with a U-14 boys and a U-16 boys team, a MSA Division III state championship with a U-14 boys team and a MSA Division II state championship with a U-14 boys team.
Velek said, “If you decided to put in the work and the organization behind you is willing to put in the work then it is possible for a coach from Mississippi to win a national honor.”
He added, “It is helpful that I work at a university that values and encourages faculty to be involved in their communities and in the state.”
Velek helped organize TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) for children with disabilities. He also helped found and establish a Division II program, an Under-8 Development Program and the Columbus United Soccer Club, which he serves as director of competitive soccer and director of coaching.
He is a member of the United States Soccer Federation and holds a USSF National Youth license, a USSF National D license, a USSF National E license and NSCAA national, regional and state goal keeper coaching diplomas. Velek also works as a MSA coaching instructor, an Olympic development player evaluator and is vice president of Division II soccer for MSA.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jan. 24, 2013
Contact: Anika Mitchell Perkins