A Passion for the Game


Photograph by Noah Reines

Coach Jeff Watson

Born in 1959 in South Carolina, Jeff Watson, an outstanding coach known for his skills and friendly gestures, has been at Miami Country Day School for 21 years. Beginning in 1997, Coach Watson continuously enhances and elevates the soccer program, as well as the students in the school. Watson’s impact has led our soccer teams to multiple district and regional championships along with state qualifications. From playing to coaching, from Districts to States, Watson does it all. While this is admirable, does anyone really know what Watson’s passions are? What puts a smile on his face? What drives Watson’s desire for the game? Noah Reines caught up with Coach Watson on the eve of his boys Varsity team going to Regional Finals:

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

Noah: At what age did you start playing soccer?

Watson: I started playing soccer in 10th grade, so like 15. My Dad was in the military so we lived in Okinawa, Japan in 9th grade. When I came back to the States, I came back after August 1st and American football had already started so I could not start that year in 10th grade. Then a couple of my older friends said ‘Let’s go out for the soccer team.’ So I went out for the team in 10th grade and the rest is history.

Noah: Could you give a little more background on why exactly you wanted to coach soccer?

Watson: Well in high school, my team … won the state championship all three years. I got a scholarship to Erskine College and the soccer coach there took a big liking to me. He liked the way I was very athletic, fast, could run all day long, and he took me aside and really worked on my skills. My sophomore year I was invited to try out for the national team. I was nominated for the World University Games, but in January that year I was in a bad car accident and broke my leg so I lost my tryouts. And then I got a passion for coaching. I could still play, just not at the level I could before.

Noah: When the incident happened, when you broke your leg, were there no other options in order to continue playing soccer?

Watson: Well, I continued playing college soccer. You just only have a small window when you have a national team tryouts and so I missed that window because there are a lot of kids in the United States who get offered these opportunities. When I missed my chance they would just go to the next list of kids.

Noah: So how were you feeling exactly? Give me some emotions.

Watson: I was very upset. I went back and worked with my college coach about 5 years ago. We were talking, reminiscing about the old times and my accident came up and he was just saying that if I wasn’t in my accident I probably would have played professional soccer. I’ve been doing some stuff now with national leagues and stuff like that.

Noah: How did you end up in Florida from South Carolina?

Watson: One of my teammates from my college team lived down in Miami Shores and he contacted me and said they had a job offer here in Miami because I couldn’t find anything in South Carolina. I talked to the Father at Archbishop Curley and he offered me the job over the phone. I came down in ‘81 and I’ve been here ever since.

Noah: Perfect. Also can you tell me a little bit about something that happened over these 22 years that you’ve been coaching at MCDS that really illustrates your passion for the sport and coaching.

Watson: Being here at Miami Country Day School, I don’t have the talent that I had at my other schools. When I was at Sunset, a public school. We had 5000 kids to choose from. I’m at Miami Country Day now and I get my thrill out of coaching the kids that I get. We don’t go out and recruit. We don’t go out and bring the best kids in and it’s a challenge to make a good team with the players we get. We get some good soccer players here. This year we are one game away from going to states. We’ve done real well and I like the challenge of making a good team from the players we get.

Noah: As a coach, can you tell me what makes a good soccer player, I mean you’ve been here for about 22 years so what have you seen?

Watson: Well, basically a good soccer player who is gonna be committed. They’re  willing to listen to what all the coaches have to tell them to do and they’ll try to do the best they can to improve their game. But yea, you have to be very committed, dedicated. You have to sacrifice when all your friends are going to a party, you have to say you can’t go because you have practice or you have a game. That’s what we really look for when we are looking for our players.  

Noah: Why does coaching put a smile on your face?

Watson:I enjoy watching the game of soccer and this year my guys played some good teams and they’ve actually played some real good soccer. When they touch it around, knock it around, play like we ask them to play, they can beat anybody. We have beaten some of the best teams in the state already this year so.

Noah: One last question. You basically spend all your time coaching soccer. Do you ever take a break? If so, what do you do instead?

Watson: Basically I’m coaching soccer right now and softball season for girls is starting and I’m assistant coach for that so when soccer is over, I’ll go out and do some softball. Most of the time, my two sons and daughter are all playing soccer. My sons are still playing and my daughter still plays on amateur teams so we’re still involved in the game of soccer.