A sad day for MSSU soccer

It was with sadness that Eddie Horn, one of Missouri Southern’s tri-captains (1984-87), amongst others, informed me of the cancellation of the men’s soccer program at MSSU. A number of different emotions came to me at the time, but after a few days I decided to put my feelings down on paper and, at least for my part, bring closure for those of us who feel the same way.

I don’t believe in blaming people, finding fault, or criticizing. That usually achieves very little and after teaching our motto for so many years, “Championship through Sportsmanship,” I should practice what I preached; whining has no part in sportsmanship.

We all have experienced setbacks and have discovered that nothing lasts forever. So now we turn to remembering the “good old days,” maybe even with a few nostalgic tears. Any soccer program I have ever been involved in was never about kicking a ball around. Anyone can do that without spending a dime. But what have always been important were the intangibles: dedication, perseverance, camaraderie, support, fairness, as well as relationships formed with other players and coaches, etc. We were a family. We were happy when we succeeded as individuals or as a team, and we were sad when we didn’t.

In our lives, sometimes we get an opportunity to be a pioneer, to lay the groundwork for others to follow and enjoy. When I came to Joplin in 1972, there were no soccer teams. But in a few short years we had organized the Greater Ozark Soccer Association for little league teams as well as adult teams, all of which include: the Y.M.C.A., the Boys Club, local high schools, and the local junior colleges, Crowder and North East Oklahoma in Miami, Okla.

The first four years, from 1972-1976, we were a club sport and had to support ourselves. However, with the help of local enthusiasts, we did it. These four years were preparatory to the Board of Regents Meeting on March 11, 1976, when Dr. Leon Billingsley, the President of the college, proposed to make soccer a varsity sport, of which they did. All told we played 327 games! We won some, lost some and tied some including nine games in Germany, Switzerland and Austria (6-1-2), all in 1985.

Over the years we have had eight All-Americans, four Academic All-Americans (including our only recruit from South America, Alberto Escobar), 11 All-Midwest players and 49 All-District 16 Players. It is simply impossible to mention all of you, but you know who you are and be assured that you are remembered and appreciated.

Because we were a family it was especially sad to hear that Mike Bryson passed away between Christmas and New Year’s of 2008 at the young age of 48. Six years ago he had been diagnosed with the skin cancer that eventually took his life. We will all miss him and will not forget him. He was a standup guy, a captain, and someone we could always count on. He still holds the all-time record for points scored at MSSU, 145 on 59 goals and 27 assists!

During my 16-year tenure as coach we drove nearly 100,000 miles and never had an accident. Maybe someone upstairs liked us and kept an eye on us. I want to give credit where credit is due.

Let’s not be too distraught. Who is to say that sometime down the road, when things improve, we’ll have another first-class soccer program at MSSU.

Never give up; many games are won in the last minute!

Sincerely,Hal BodonMSSU Soccer Coach, 1972-1987