Soccer has been an essential part of life for Coach Raiford Malone since a very young age. His mother helped form the Denton Soccer Association and was president of it for close to 25 years, and his brother is a former Wichita Falls High School soccer coach. As for Malone, he was a soccer star in high school and college until he tore his ACL and MCL in his right knee. With these injuries, he was virtually benched for good. Instead of taking the path of a professional athlete, he turned to teaching, coaching high school soccer, and eventually putting coaching on hold to cheer on his children from the sidelines. Now, after a brief hiatus, he’s finally ready to get back in the game.
Malone is taking the field again after a five-year absence. He has been an educator here for 20 years, as well as a head soccer coach for part of that time. But when he realized his games constantly conflicted with his ability to see his kids’ games, he took a break from coaching to focus on being around for them more. Other coaches might not be so quick to give up a prized leading position, but for Malone, family comes first.
“ I wanted to watch my kids play, and I didn’t really get to see my son play early on,” Malone said. “I got out his senior year.”
With his two youngest children graduating last year, Malone had the thought of easing back into coaching; however, after taking years off from being a soccer instructor, he never expected to be back in the action so soon. Although it is a step down from his original position as head coach, he doesn’t see the title-change as a negative.
“I was a head coach before, and now I’m an assistant, so in my opinion it lets me be more of a coach,” Malone said. “I just get to focus on the coaching part of it while the head coach has to deal with a lot of those things that aren’t the fun parts.”
Since taking an absence from coaching, Malone has taught Anatomy and Physiology and
Aquatic Science to seniors, but he is excited to be back on the field working with his favorite sport instead of being in his classroom for the majority of the day.
“I think my favorite part is just being around the kids, feeding off their energy, and getting to be outside for part of the day,” Malone said.
Coming back into a sport after being away for so long is not an easy transition, but Malone is keeping an optimistic outlook. Though he recognizes there have been some safety and administrative changes to the sport in the years he was gone, his love for soccer and coaching it have remained unchanged. All in all, he said he is hopeful for the season to come, and he has plans to make this his best year yet.
“I hope I can bring some positive things to the team,” Malone said. “They had a great run last year, and I’m hoping I can help them get at least as far, if not further, than they made it last year in the playoffs.”