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 in Charlotte.
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.
Frank’s extraordinary 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.”
Frank’s wife 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.