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“And Mike can motivate players to a level they themselves are not even aware of.” To be so adept, Wallace did not always dream of coaching. A military brat, “Coach Mike” lived in Europe until he was a teenager. Tough soccer is wildly popular on the continent, he did not pick up soccer until aſter moving to North Car- olina for high school. Wallace’s skills on the pitch were in- stinctual, however, and he was named All-State as a senior. Turning down scholarship offers from several large schools, Wallace chose to enroll in small Coker College in Hartsville, S.C., where in four years he was All-America three times. “Anyone can be successful if they have a good coach,” Wal- lace says, eschewing personal glory. Professional American soccer was still an iffy enterprise in

those days, so Wallace did not initially plan on turning pro. “I was looking at law school and a few other things,” says Wallace. He was draſted aſter his senior season but re- turned to school to finish a third undergraduate degree. Later, he decided to give a pro career a try. In five years,

Wallace made stops in Colorado, Atlanta, and his mother’s native country, Italy, before a knee injury sidelined him. “It was fun but it was a business,” says Wallace. In those days, players were paid according to their performance on the field, which caused tension in the clubhouse. “I was never one for competition within my team and you weren’t mak- ing any money unless you scored goals or made assists.” While a pro, Wallace had a taste of his future. “We had to

work volunteer hours to help pay for housing and I got into working with kids,” says Wallace, who taught special educa- tion and coached youth soccer in Colorado. “I’ve always been good with kids.” His pro days behind him, Wallace made coaching stops in 10 Spring 2011

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the Carolinas and Atlanta before moving to Tomasville in 1998 to run TASA and coach the girl’s program at Cairo High. While there, he was asked to start a similar program in Moultrie. “I thought they just wanted me to do a pro- posal,” says Wallace. “But they came back and asked if I wanted to run it.” He did not. Aſter a short stint as assistant coach of the

women’s program at the University of Central Arkansas, a Division-I soccer powerhouse, Wallace returned to South Georgia to be closer to his children. “It was kind of a dream thing for me to coach Division-I soccer,” says Wallace. “But my boys are the number one thing in my life.” Along with Marion and David Tyndall, Chuck Bannister was instrumental in bringing Wallace back from Arkansas. Bannister, father of Laura Hill, calls Wallace a “tremendous coach and a wonderful human being.” “What attracted us to Mike is not only is he an outstand-

ing soccer coach who understands the game at a level you don’t see in South Georgia, but he also teaches quality life lessons to the kids that are above and beyond pure soccer,” says Bannister, whose son Will also plays for ASG Georgia. “Te discipline and work ethic he teaches those kids carries over into real life, their academics, and their relationships with others also.” Tose are values many of Wallace’s players take with them

to the college ranks. In the almost-three years since Wallace returned to the area, 16 high school seniors have played under him. Each was offered a college scholarship, and 14 signed to play at colleges like Darton College, Middle Geor- gia College in Cochran, and Faulkner College in Bay Minette, Ala.

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