Perseverance and integrity are words used often by North Whidbey Soccer Club Vice-President Graeme Sandlin when describing what makes a successful soccer player, and he knows what he’s talking about.
“One more rep, one more lap won’t kill you,” said Sandlin. “You have to keep pushing forward and keep pushing hard.”
A more than 30-year soccer veteran, he first started playing soccer at 8 years old, rapidly moving up through the ranks after scoring eight goals in his first game, playing at the varsity level by the 7th grade.
Sandlin was on track to go pro and even participated in tryouts, but after several years plagued with knee injuries, it became clear he was meant for a different path in life. He went on to pursue a career in marketing and start a family, but soccer wasn’t done with him yet. Years later, one of his children showed an interest in the sport and he was brought back into the world of soccer as a coach.
Coaching in North Whidbey Island is uniquely personal by nature, due to the fact that it’s largely made up of military families with at least one parent deployed at any given time. It’s an environment that suits him, as he is equal parts enforcer and nurturer. His infectious energy demonstrates his love for soccer and his level of investment in every single player he works with.
Sandlin is largely responsible for development of the NWSC’s year-round Academy Program, which offers low-cost goalkeeping and skills-based classes. The program also serves as a bridge for players from recreational to competitive play in one-on-one and small group environments.
The North Whidbey Soccer Club takes a mixed approach to developing soccer players - teaching them the fundamentals of the sport while also helping them understand it from their own individual perspective, allowing them to build on players’ unique playing styles.
Over the years, Sandlin has worn many hats in soccer - referee, coach, and club vice president - but his favorite is and always will be as a player and it’s that perspective that makes him such a standout coach and mentor.