Frank Ponce and an
identical twin brother were born to ranchers in
Trinidad, Cuba on May 27, 1951. Their parents sent
the two young boys to the United States when they
were ten years old in hopes of a better life away
from Communist Cuba. When they were not attending
school, the brothers worked to earn money to help
their parents join them in the United States. The
family was reunited by the time the boys were fifteen.
The boys excelled in football, basketball, and track
at Garinger High School in Charlotte. Soccer was
not played in the high schools at that time. Immediately
after Frank graduated from the University of North
Carolina – Charlotte in 1974, he began his
career teaching Spanish at Myers Park High School
Years later, in an
interview with the Charlotte Observer, Frank recalled
that during the interview for the teaching position
at Myers Park, “they asked me if I could coach
soccer. I told them I could read. So I read books
and I went to see some college matches and took
a note pad. I went to clinics in the summer.”
His first team made it to the state high school
tournament’s final four and Frank’s
passion for the game took off.
contributions as the soccer coach at Myers Park
High School in Charlotte 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. The honor is bestowed posthumously and will
be accepted by Frank’s wife Karen and their
sons Paul, Daniel, and David.
At Myers Park, Frank
coached the men’s soccer team from 1974-1980
and 1991-1998 and the women’s team from 1985-1998.
His overall coaching record there was 239-55-20.
Two heart bypass surgeries and a stroke sidelined
him for a time. But his passion for the game, and
especially for the interaction with the young people
he touched, kept him coming back for more. His contributions
were recognized by his peers; he was named State
Women’s Coach of the Year in 1997 and State
Men’s Coach of the Year in 1998 by the North
Carolina Soccer Coaches Association.
Coach Frank Ponce
was loved by his players. Bobby Moore, a former
player, remembers his coach this way: “At
the center of our team was Frank’s principle
that there was no ‘I’ in ‘TEAM.’
We never had the superstars that other teams had,
but we always seemed to do well. We played to our
strengths and we did it together. While soccer was
a priority from Frank, he was amazing at realizing
there was more about life than soccer. He taught
us more about life than the sport, one in which
he never played as a kid but poured all of his energy
into as an adult. He always wanted to learn soccer
from us and this was unique among high school soccer
coaches. He was, without a doubt in my mind, the
best high school soccer coach in North Carolina.
Not because he knew the most about the game or strategy,
but because he knew how to handle the team and coach
us better than anyone.”
Karen most certainly had the best seat in the house
to witness his outstanding coaching career.
She remembers the nights after games, both victories
and defeats, when Frank would “watch the video”
and discuss “whatever it is that coaches talk
about” with his dear friend Larry Bosc. She
recalls the time she drove him straight to Myers
Park after being discharged from the medical center
following an appendectomy, and notes, “That
was the only game he ever remained seated for.”
But mostly, she attests to the fact that Frank taught
his players how to win and lose gracefully and how
to play the game of soccer with passion, skill,
fairness, and good sportsmanship.
Frank Ponce made a
difference in the lives of hundreds of boys and
girls he coached and taught.