EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appeared in the Friday, April 1, 2016, edition of the Maryville Daily Forum. It’s reprinted in its entirety here.
Cleo Samudzi unwinds a little differently than most.
As dean of the Missouri Academy of Science, Mathematics and Computing, Samudzi has spent his lifetime educating young people. His teachings continue even in his down time as he chases his passions in soccer.
“I don’t look at it as volunteering,” he said while contradicting himself as he explains the many hours per week that are donated to the Maryville Twisters soccer program. “The way I started this competitive girls soccer here had a lot more to do with the fact that I love the game.”
That love affair started as a lad in Zimbabwe, where Samudzi began playing. It has continued through the years, including the last several in Maryville. He took the post at Northwest Missouri State University a dozen years ago and quickly engrossed himself into the local soccer scene.
That’s when he saw the need for more development for competitive play among the community’s youth. He established the Maryville Twisters girls soccer program in 2005, and he’s been instrumental in how the sport has grown locally over that time. The recent success of the Maryville High School girls soccer team has been proof of that.
“For a coach at that level, you’re only as good as the players who come to you and get that training before you get them,” Samudzi said.
He saw the need, which also fit into his passion.
“I’ve never been paid to coach,” he said. “I have donated my time to something that I love doing. It happens to be a service to another person.
“You don’t understand how much I watch the game. This past summer, I went to Canada for the Women’s World Cup; the year before, I went to Brazil for the men’s cup and to watch the game.”
That is considerable time devoted to the game, but there’s more. In addition to the hours of practice each week for the teams – he has two age groups this spring but has had as many as three – there is also the traveling to various competitions. The Twisters play a league that is based in the Kansas City area, so most weekends during the fall and spring seasons are taken up with those trips.
It sometimes means a bit of a juggle. One age group may play in Independence at a similar time as another team plays in Liberty. He leans on other volunteers to help coordinate the activities as occasions arise.
“It’s a privilege to have parents supporting this sport, parents supporting their kids,” Samudzi said. “In essence, the parents are supporting my habits.”
He chuckled at the thought, but he recognized there’s something more to it. So do the families that are involved. Most of the girls have been part of the Twisters for several years.
“Cleo’s very knowledgeable about the game of soccer, but he’s teaching them more than soccer,” said T.J. Allen, whose daughter, Tori, has been part of the Twisters for four years. “He teaches them how to work within themselves to be at the right place at the right time. You may not be the best athlete or the best team out there, but if you can work together, you can accomplish just about anything.”
Still, all this comes from a man willing to donate his time. He may not see it as volunteerism, but it is. The Twisters’ parents see it, and so do their girls.
Samudzi has found many rewards, the foremost being around the game he adores so much. But there’s more, from the relationships he’s crafted with dozens of families over the last dozen years.
“My greatest reward is to see the high school team do well,” he said. “Almost all of the players went through out program. It’s great to see the impact of their development and skill level and also that they are enjoying the sport.
“I start them very young (11 years of age and younger). That is satisfaction seeing them grow in the sport. When they go to high school, just watching them you know you’ve had an impact on a kid’s life. That’s extremely rewarding.”
To the coach and his players.