Junior Austin Wilcox locks hands with his teammates and walks towards the center of the field. It’s a late summer night at BVDAC, and it’s the Shawnee Mission East boys’ soccer team’s first game of the season. The announcer gives the starting lineups: “Number seven, Austin Wilcox.” The national anthem proceeds, then it’s time for kick off. The starters huddle in the middle of the field. The guys surrounding him were unfamiliar faces just a month ago, but now they are his teammates; the colors he wears–black and Colombia blue–now signify a team.
But one thing in his life had not changed. The ground beneath his cleats is still a soccer field, and as the team breaks it down, everything clears out of his head. This is where he wants to be: playing soccer.
Wilcox was born in Kansas City. When he was only two, his family moved to Colorado, then two years later moved again to Hollice, Maine. There, things settled down. And there began his passion for soccer. Wilcox began playing when he was six, just in recreational leagues, but found his talent when he was only eight, playing four years up for a 12 years old and under premiere team. Two years later he switched to a club team called Odyssey, until he had an unexpected turn in direction before his freshman year.
Wilcox’s parents decided it was better to go separate ways. For Wilcox, this meant new friends, a new house and a new school. He moved with his mom to Scarborough, a town just 15 minutes out of Portland where his dad was living.
Throughout the whole situation, Wilcox tried to stay positive.
“My parents’ divorce was hard. We had always been a very close family,” Wilcox. “I could see later on that it was the right thing for them to do because they weren’t meant for each other–but, to be honest, I don’t think they worked hard enough to make it work.”
Although he had doubts, Wilcox accepted his situation and moved in a new direction.
“I wanted to see my family happy, so I knew it was the right move for them and their lives,” Wilcox said.
Starting his high school career with a completely new set of people was difficult, not to mention he was in the middle of a divorce that was out of his control. It was hard to adjust, but during this hard time Austin found his outlet to be soccer.
“Soccer was the one thing that kept me sane, it was the one consistent thing that was in my life at the time and I could count on being there for me,” Wilcox said.
At this point, soccer was becoming a major part of his life. Coming into freshman year, Wilcox played for a Super Y League team. The Super Y League is a step above premiere, and develops players for the Academy level. Their coaches looked for 18 players to play against other teams around the country–and Wilcox made the cut. After the camp Wilcox, was also invited to play for Seacoast United, a top Academy team. He was at his peak, but he wouldn’t let up.
The high school season began, and Wilcox along with two other freshman made the varsity squad. That year, Wilcox didn’t get much playing time; the team was loaded with talented seniors who ended up taking the Class A State Title in Maine. However, Wilcox, a sophomore now, was in the starting lineup and was given more playing time. These two years were critical for Wilcox, not just to build as a player, but to make good grades in school through this hard time.
“In order for me to play soccer, I have to be doing well in school, and I love to play soccer so that drives me to do well in school,” Wilcox said.
Wilcox finished out his sophomore year with Scarborough High ending their state title hunt in the quarterfinals. Wilcox was young, and had two more years to make his name at Scarborough High. He was hopeful and anticipating a great high school career.
Wilcox walks out the door for school like any other day. But today, when he shuts the door behind him, he sees the packed up boxes inside, and knows his life will change once again.
Wilcox’s mom was moving to California. She had a job opportunity there and a boyfriend she had frequently traveled to see. Austin knew it was the best for her, but like any other kid would, he wanted her to stay.
“I just supported her through it, but I did realize how much I wouldn’t like not having my mom,” Wilcox said. “I told her I’d be sad if she moved, but I never really told her not to. I don’t really regret not doing it.”
Although Wilcox was positive, the question still lingered over him: Why?
“I just didn’t understand why she was leaving,” Wilcox said. “I knew she was going to make more money there, and I think she thought I’d eventually come out and live with her. But, it was hard for me to justify moving in with my mom in California, and leaving my dad when he was there with me [at the time].”
With less than a month’s notice, Wilcox was standing in the parking lot of an Outback Steak house with his mom, giving her a final goodbye. He would see her on occasional vacations, and Wilcox knew it would be hard–but this wasn’t the end.
With the high school season was over, Wilcox was back on the field with Seacoast Academy, and improving every day. He was without his mom now, and with surmounting hardships, soccer was his defense.
Wilcox is closing out his sophomore year at Scarborough High. The first week of summer, Wilcox is on a plane to a showcase with his Academy team. He knows he won’t be seeing his friends again, but they do not.
Wilcox knew very well that he would be moving to Kansas City the next week. His grandma didn’t have family and was getting old, so Wilcox and his dad decided it was best to move back with her. His friends were completely clueless. Wilcox had been keeping it a secret.
Since he knew he would be living in Kansas City, he wanted to have Sporting Coaches check him out, and this showcase was where it had to happen. It’s painful for Wilcox to keep his secret from his friends, but he knew telling them could jeopardize his chance at Sporting.
Ever since Wilcox was six, it was his dream to become a professional soccer player. It was his passion, and this was his chance. If his Academy coach knew he was moving, that would all be lost. He would not be played in this tournament.
“I felt like a liar and an awful friend, because I wasn’t able to tell them,” Wilcox said.
On the car ride to Kansas after the showcase, Wilcox began to formulate a message to his friends.
“It was not an easy message to type,” Wilcox said. “I knew that many of them would think it was not for real, but they eventually got what I was saying. Once school started for Scarborough back in Maine, I got a lot of messages from kids wondering where I was.”
Just a week after his old high school was released for summer, Wilcox was living in a completely new city, but soccer was still there. Wilcox was already at Swope Park trying out with Sporting. The sun was beating down on him, never letting up. There was a 40-degree temperature difference between Kansas City and Maine. Nevertheless, soccer was once again the consistency, always there to fall on.
Wilcox has found a spot into the young boys’ team, and has found his teammates very supportive.
“I think I have fit in well, Coach Kelly has done a great job of finding a place where I fit into the team and we seem to have great chemistry. My teammates are extremely cohesive no matter who is on the field, and that’s very important.”
It’s been a journey, but Wilcox –playing in his first game at East– is on the short grass field at BVDAC, and he hears that whistle blow.
“Any anticipations about a game can be made, but at kick off its nothing but the players and 90 minutes of soccer,” Wilcox said.
Soccer is just that for him. It’s the consistency in his fast-paced, unpredictable life. Wilcox is now settling in to East. He misses his mom, his friends, and his home, but things are looking up.
“I just try and take my situation and make it into one that will help my future,” Wilcox said. “My situation makes me a little frustrated sometimes but that can also help fuel the fire for soccer.”