As Doug Mello looks over the field, he hopes this time is different, but knows better.
“It’s a natural time for people to start touting what a great sports it is,” Mello said. “Then the naysayers come in say, ‘It’s still a secondary sport.’”
On August 3, the US Women’s National Team won their first soccer match in Rio. During the Olympics, soccer hopefuls rush to the sport, while soccer enthusiasts hear the repeated message: This is the year soccer competes with the NFL in American culture.
“I don’t agree with them,” Mello said. “The NFL is the NFL. It has the wonderful spot in our culture that is not going to be taken away by any sport.”
Coach Mello says the exposure from TV helps, but that’s not best way to grow the sport state side.
“With soccer, it’s the largest youth movement of kids playing a sport,” Mello said. “That projects into them growing up and then having their kids play.”
Soccer camps like the one conducted by Helena Youth Soccer Association, help kids play the sport and hopefully fall in love. Just like 9-year-old Brendan Loomis.
“I just like to watch America win,” Loomis said. “It makes me want to try harder to be one of them.”
Most players reach adolescence and give up on the world’s number one sport. Mello believes it’s because coaches and parents what young athletes to specialize.
“You’re going to need to at some point pick a sport and go with it,” Mello said. “Everybody doesn’t need to follow that mood of operation but a lot of players do that.”
For now, Mello continues to do his part. Maybe one day, American will view the game with same passion as the world.