From the green landscape of Ireland to a small German town, Mike Freace was always learning about soccer.
A son of missionaries, Freace was born in New York but moved to Alabama when he was 5. He then fell in love with the sport, and wherever he went after that, he picked up little things about the game.
In Ireland, it was pieces from a hard-nosed game; in Germany, the technical aspect of the sport flourishes.
By picking up different styles, Freace can better tweak a gameplan if needed. This season, the coach made the right amount of adjustments to lead the Westminster girls soccer team to a GISA Class AAA state championship. He is The Augusta Chronicle’s girls soccer coach of the year.
“It’s fun to see just how different the game is approached in different places,” Freace said. “I think it’s helped me with coaching. It’s allowed me to take what I have talent-wise and figure out what’s the best system for them.”
In the state final against Augusta Prep, Freace’s gameplan was to win the midfield. After a slow start, the Lady Wildcats improved in the second half and had better and more frequent chances than Augusta Prep. Cara Smith eventually scored the game’s lone goal as Westminster won the state title for the second time in four years.
“It was very fulfilling. I traveled the journey with them for four, sometimes five years. To win that last game with them was very special,” Freace said about the seniors.
Besides playing college soccer at Houghton College, Freace, who also coaches Westminster’s boys team, played for the semi-pro Charlotte Eagles. He traveled to Scandinavia and France with the Eagles, and he watched in the stands as Colombia beat Tunisia in a 1998 FIFA World Cup group game in France.
As always, no matter where he goes, soccer will be with him.
“I love the game. I’m a student of the game. I love keeping up with the game — what’s the latest trend? I like feeling you can make an adjustment here and there and really affect the game,” Freace said. “And I just love the kids; it keeps me young. I’m just trying to make a difference in their lives.”
CHECK ONLINE: Come back Saturday afternoon to find out who is the girls soccer player of the year for The Augusta Chronicle.