KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Austin-East has never been a soccer powerhouse. From 2008 -2014, the Roadrunners won only one game. Head coach Jonathan Netherland would know, he went to Austin-East and played on the team. After volunteering as an assistant, Netherland was named head coach four years ago.
"Four years ago we really really started to play soccer more and less kickball," joked Netherland.
In the four years since Netherland became head coach, Austin-East has won 28 games.
"All it takes is a whistle."
Netherland says there's now a passion for soccer.
"They want to get out there and split teams and play world cup, they want to be Messi, they want to be Ronaldo," said Netherland.
The coach credits Austin-East adding an English as a Second Language program to the school for a lot of the success. This team has its roots planted all over the world.
"I have kids from Myanmar, Iraq, Burundi, of course of Mexico, so it's a nice mix of natural chemistry I would say."
We joke that ball is life, but for Netherland this team is everything. As someone who graduated from A-E, a coach who who works two jobs away from the pitch, these kids make that life worth it.
"Before this I was a server going home everyday, playing my Playstation, not really knowing what I was going to do with my life, but now I have a purpose. Whether I have eight kids at practice, two kids at practice or 20, they give me a reason to get up and come everyday, I don't know if they quite understand that to that depth, but they mean the world to me," said Netherland.
The Roadrunner season came to an end on Tuesday night, after falling to Berean Christian in a penalty shootout.