David Sanford was introduced to the game of soccer in his hometown of Chapel Hill at age fifteen by some players from the University of North Carolina. Anson Dorrance, Tim Morse, and Kip Ward were three of them.
Hooked on soccer, David joined the movement to start the varsity program at Chapel Hill High School, where in their 1972 inaugural season, they suffered their only loss of the season in the semi-finals of the state championship tournament. The next season the Tigers went undefeated and won the State Championship by defeating East Mecklenburg, 1-0, on a goal scored by David.
David continued his playing career at Brevard College where he was team captain and MVP. He began his coaching career as an assistant to Hank Steinbrecher at Appalachian State in 1981. David attributes much of his approach to coaching to the time he spent with Coach Steinbrecher. In 1982 David assumed the position of Head Soccer Coach at Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, a place where he would eventually coach for eighteen years.
David Sanford’s extraordinary contributions as the soccer coach at Wesleyan Christian Academy have earned him the distinction of being selected as a member of the fourth class of inductees of the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame on this, the twenty-seventh day of January, 2001.
During the course of Coach Sanford’s eighteen-year career at Wesleyan, the Trojan program rose to state and national prominence. His teams appeared in thirteen North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) state championship games, winning nine and losing four. They won six consecutive NCISAA State Championships from 1990 through 1995. His overall career record at Wesleyan was 288-67-34. The Trojans earned the #6 spot in the final National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) national coaches poll in 1994 and the #9 ranking in the final poll in 1998. He was named conference coach of the year eleven times, North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association (NCSCA) Private/Parochial Coach of the Year four times, and Southeast Regional Coach of the Year by the NSCAA twice. In 1994, he was honored with the prestigious National Coach of the Year Award for Private/Parochial High School Coaches by the NSCAA. David also coached club soccer teams in the Greensboro/High Point area, including the Greensboro Kickers and the High Point Stars, and has coached and toured with the Charlotte Eagles professional and youth teams.
In addition to his stellar record as a high school coach, David Sanford has distinguished himself by his service to the game. He has served as the vice-president of the North Carolina Soccer Coaches Association, Chairman of the National and Regional Boys High School Coach of the Year Committees for the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, State Chairman for boys soccer for the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association, and Assistant Staff Coach for the NSCAA. He has also volunteered as coaching director for the High Point Stars club program and served the local YMCA through coaching development programs.
David Sanford believes in the adage that “you don’t coach soccer, you coach people.” The game is a means, not an end in itself. It simply establishes a venue where people can pursue a common goal, serve each other, and find joy in creating beauty in an intensely competitive environment. He believes that “the reason soccer is so gratifying is that it is the sport that best emulates life. Nothing is certain. It is a player’s game. As a coach, you teach the players principles by which they can choose to make decisions in the match. Effort is demanded, character challenged, dependence on others made a strength, and common goals have greater value than personal agendas.”
Coach David Sanford’s greatest fulfillment is not seeing a player lift a championship trophy. Rather, it is seeing a former player demonstrating the above qualities in serving his family and his community.