With the soccer season in full swing, a young Fort Bragg Soldier dedicates her evenings and weekends to coaching the Purple Goblins soccer team.
Despite the everyday demands as a full-time Soldier and single mother, Pfc. Crystal Durden, human resource specialist with Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Command (Theater), is up for the challenge coaching the team of 15, easily distracted four-year-olds.
“The challenge is trying to get them all to do the same thing at the same time,” said Durden. “Their attention span is short so I have to apply skills that I have learned as a Soldier.”
Durden decided to volunteer as a soccer coach with the Fort Bragg Child, Youth and School Services to introduce her daughter, Allysen Lopez-Durden, to new opportunities and lead by example just as her mother did when she was a child.
“My mom was my coach when I was younger and I have really good memories of that,” said Durden. “I wanted to show (Allysen) that mommy was out there kicking the ball around and get her interested in more things.”
Allysen also wears the number 22 on her jersey, a number her mother wore throughout her soccer career.
A seasoned soccer player, Durden teaches the team, along with her daughter, basic skills like dribbling, throw-ins and following up the ball into the goal.
“I started playing soccer when I was four and played all the way up until my first year in college,” said Durden.
Durden said she is able to balance her busy schedule by maintaining a strict schedule down to the minute.
“Everything has a set time,” said Durden. “For example, I know if I don’t have my bag in the car it will take me eight minutes to get out of the house.”
During the soccer season, Durden and her daughter are constantly on the go with little time to spare.
“We’re out of the house bright and early and won’t get back home until soccer practice is over,” said Durden. “I can tell if the week is taking a toll on her so I may stop and get her some Sweet Frog. She has a lot on her plate too even for a four-year-old.”
The first year coach said she takes pride in watching her young players develop their skills and hopes they gain a love for soccer as she has.
“She does very well with an extremely hard age group,” said Michael Woodall, father of Caiden Woodall, a member of the Purple Goblins team. “She has to constantly coach and corral. She has a tough job to keep their attention and she does a really good job of that.”
In just a short time, Durden has learned that her players are not the only ones benefiting from the experience on the soccer field.
“When the kids become proud of themselves its very rewarding,” said Durden. “I didn’t realize until now how much of an impact I have and I am grateful to be a part of that.”