DECATUR – Nic Webster learned to play soccer mostly on his own beginning at a very early age.
There just weren't many outlets available to him while growing up in the country between Findlay and Moweaqua.
His high school, Central A&M, didn't offer a soccer program at the time, either.
It didn't diminish his love for the game. Despite the obstacles, he studied matches and mastered his soccer technique.
It's what makes him an intriguing coach and mentor at the Mid-State Soccer Club. He just has an infectious ability to instill that passion for the game into his players.
“My players know how obsessed I am with the game,” Webster said. “I think it's my passion that has rubbed off of them.”
Just like he did as a player, he latched onto coaching and hasn't let go for the last seven years with Mid-State.
Seven years may not sound like a big deal, except he's pretty much coached the same group of girls the entire time and it's a team that is among the best in the area.
A strong contingent is part of the St. Teresa High School girls soccer team: Camryn Wagner, Lauryn Pugh, Gabby and Allysa Spencer, Tara Grueter and Makenzee Velchek among them. All of those mentioned were sophomores this past school year and ended up catching St. Teresa's first Class 1A regional title in the spring.
There are a couple of other big names on Webster's team: Reilly Fitzpatrick and Megan Leighton for the Warrensburg-Latham/Maroa-Forsyth co-op and even a Kaylee Showalter for Riverton.
Many of those players have been together for the past several years with Webster, starting when they were 11 years old.
“It's been really good,” said Fitzpatrick, who is entering her fifth season with Mid-State this fall. “They accepted me as family, and it's fun to play with them and get close to everybody, and we grow with them throughout the year.”
Webster never thought about coaching until Mid-State director Colin Bonner piqued his interest.
The biggest thing he learned once he took up the job – joined by his wife Kristy in those first couple of seasons – was simply letting his players enjoy the game.
“Let the players be creative; let them fail and correct them then,” Webster said. “You'll be surprised what it does for their morale to let them play freely and just be creative players and learning the game as they play.”
It was all about building a positive attitude first and foremost. Wagner said it's kind of a rule for him.
“A lot of them were actually on the fence whether they were going to play soccer again,” Webster said. “So the main thing for me and Kristy going into it was not necessarily teaching them a whole lot of stuff. Obviously that's what we're going to do, but it was to get them relaxed and to fall in love of the game again.
"Once you get them to fall in love with the game, that's when they will be open to try new things and that's when they will start learning and improving and developing. That first season, I wouldn't say it was rough because it wasn't, we just had a lot of fun.”
They eventually focused on those finer details – how to properly dribble, pass and shoot the ball – after the first season.
Their growth since has been nothing short of remarkable.
“I think my skill and overall being a player, I think it's definitely helped a lot,” Wagner said. “I've learned a lot from Mid-State and it's a big part of what I've accomplished.”
This fall, they will run up against tougher competition. Webster has a few major tournaments on the docket, including the Illinois President's Cup in Rockford in October.
“I'm looking forward to seeing how everyone's improved from their school season and see how well we do when we mesh together,” Fitzpatrick said. “And we have some tough tournaments this season, and I'm excited to see how we can do in those.”