By Don Trello
The Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
There are winners and losers in and out of sports and Gaither High boys soccer coach Eric Sims is definitely the former on both fronts.
Sims, who is also executive director of the Tampa Bay United Youth Soccer Club (TBU), has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments on and off the soccer field, dating back to his days at Jesuit where he was a top student-athlete in soccer, football and baseball.
“I was a catcher/outfielder in baseball and wide receiver in football,” recalled Sims, who scored the winning touchdown for Jesuit in the 1995 state championship football game. “Scoring that touchdown has to be a major highlight as a player.
“The turning point for me in soccer was when I was a freshman at Jesuit and went to tryouts,” Sims continued. “There wasn’t a goalie, so I tried out and made the varsity as a starter.”
Sims, 35, accepted a scholarship offer from the University of Tampa (UT) in 1995 after graduating from Jesuit and became a four-year starter for the Spartans as a goalkeeper and as a baseball outfielder.
He was named to the All-Sunshine State Conference team two times each in soccer and baseball before graduating in 2000 from UT.
“I had a tryout with the old Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and could have played independent league baseball, but I decided to play minor A league soccer,” said Sims, who was named to UT’s Hall of Fame this year. “I was playing when I got a job offer from HC United Soccer Club, and I took it.”
University of Tampa men’s soccer coach Adrian Bush was instrumental in bringing Sims into the local youth soccer community at HC United.
“HC United was looking for an administrator, and I convinced Eric to apply for the job,” Bush said. “I knew he was the right guy. They hired him and he was hesitant to take it, but he gave it everything he had, and from then on everything just took off.”
Sims was named head coach at Gaither in 2001 after Bush left the position and recommended him for the job.
Sims also became executive director for TBU, which formed two years ago after HC United and RSL Florida in South Tampa merged. The club has about 2,000 players on teams at the recreational and competitive levels in all age groups.
“Eric’s work ethic is a big character trait and why he is so successful,” Bush said. “He’s open to learning and wants to give back. He’s very open to being the best he can be, and that’s a big part of why he is at where he is today.?… He is a helluva athlete and great ambassador of the game. We are very close in a lot of the things we do, and I have a lot of respect for him.”
Gaither’s record is 206-55-23 since Sims, 35, took over as coach. The Cowboys have won five district titles, made 10 playoff appearances and advanced to state final four three times under his direction.
“Winning tradition is part of the reason we’ve had success,” Sims said. “Excellence is expected and that breeds success. Kids have changed down through the years. You have to be a little more understanding and have rules.?… You have to find ways to make the kids want to compete every day. I hate the feeling of losing much more than the exhilaration of winning. You have to teach that to the kids.”
Sims feels one of his best motivational tools is a game called Dynasty played toward the end of each practice. A player draft happens and teams compete against each other with Sims and the assistant coaches participating on the field as players.
“It’s good to get out there and play with them,” said Sims. “I’m a player, not a coach, when I’m on the field. They can kick me if they are not getting enough playing time. It adds to the competitiveness of our team.”
Gaither senior forward Tyler Helm is representative of the positive feelings the Cowboys have for Sims and his coaching style.
“Coach Sims is the best around,” Helm said. “His vision on the field is professional. He sees our options. He treats us like fellow players. The best thing about Dynasty is it teaches us to be physical.”
Sims’ dedication to coaching soccer extends past the high school level.
He is an assistant men’s coach at UT and head coach of TBU’s U18 boys team.
“I have a very understanding wife; she played soccer in high school, and her father is a coach in New York,” said Sims, who has a 4-year-old son. “I’ve had really good assistant coaches. The amount of time they put in is all volunteer.”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.