Youth association and pros make soccer a way of life

Soccer is a way of life for plenty of households around Federal Way. Year in and year out, the city’s high schools produce some of the best teams in the state, along with top-notch individual talent.

And it doesn’t look like anything has change this year, making for another fun and ultra-competitive soccer season in Federal Way.

“It always is fun in Federal Way,” said Beamer High head coach Adam Kulaas. “Many of the boys play on the same club teams and then disband to their respective high schools. It makes for some interesting personal and school rivalries.”

The boys’ soccer programs at the four district high schools –– Beamer, Decatur, Federal Way and Thomas Jefferson — might be the best teams in the rugged South Puget Sound League, along with Curtis.

“All four Federal Way schools will be strong this year, so it should make the run to the playoffs interesting,” said TJ head coach Darren Sawatzky.

Sawatzky’s Raiders, along with coach Jimmy McAlister’s Decatur squad, have been at the forefront of soccer in Federal Way for a long time. The two schools have had a stranglehold on the SPSL South Division championship for the last six seasons and shared the title last year with identical 7-1-1 records.

This year, the two schools enter the SPSL South regular season, which kicks off Friday, as the co-favorites.

The two programs have something the other teams in the SPSL don’t — a tradition of soccer greatness. Both have multiple state championships under their belt — a state-record six at TJ and two at Decatur. They are also the only SPSL schools to play in a state title match.

So, here’s what I’m wondering: Why is soccer so big in Federal Way?

The answer is a fairly easy one. The credit has to go to the youth soccer organizations around the city and the excellent coaching Federal Way players are receiving early in their careers.

The Federal Way Soccer Association has well over 2,000 kids playing the sport. The association includes kids from elementary school all the way through senior high.

“In any district, the quality of club play is normally a direct reflection of the high school talent,” said Kulaas. “It starts young in the youth program and if the foundational concepts of the game are taught, the boys will continue to seek an elite level of play.

“It is really a team effort. In many cases, high school is a continuation of the boys club season, which completes a year-round soccer schedule.”

The high school coaches pour a lot of the credit toward the coaches in the Federal Way Soccer Association and the other teams in the area. About 99 percent of the coaches are volunteers and put in the countless hours of work needed to make a difference in a young person’s life without seeing a dime.

“There are very talented coaches in the district, and the high school programs have been very successful,” Kulaas said. “Club soccer in Federal Way is also very positive in the concepts of teamwork and desire to play the game.”

Also helping the overall talent pool in the city is the amount of former and current professional soccer players who have made their homes in Federal Way. Guys like former pros Tony Chursky, Bill Crook, McAlister, Fran O’Brien and Jeff Stock currently have children either playing soccer in high school or college. Chursky, McAlister and Stock all had sons on Seattle University’s 2004 Division II national championship team.

The former Sounders have also not been shy about getting involved in coaching soccer in Federal Way. McAlister is the head coach at Decatur and O’Brien coaches numerous Federal Way boys on an under-18 team for FC United. There are also current Sounders, like Sawatzky and Viet Nguyen, who have gotten involved in teaching soccer.

It just goes to show that soccer is a way of life in Federal Way.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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