Webster’s Dictionary defines a “lifer” as “a person who has made a lifelong commitment.” So if anyone could be called a soccer lifer, it would be 2014 NC Soccer Hall of Fame inductee George Kennedy. Youth camps and clinics, high school, college and professional coaching, equipment, officiating, field construction and maintenance – he has had his hand in it all in a soccer career that numbers 48 years and counting. But things don’t seem to be slowing down much. In a January, 2014 newspaper article, he stated that “this (HOF recognition) is going to make me do this another twenty years.”
It is a coaching story that began in Jacksonville, Florida in 1966. Assumption School …Bishop Kenny…Jacksonville University – these were schools that Kennedy would direct or teach in, certainly, and even early on he understood there was something bigger than a final result. It was about instructing correctly, seeing improvement and tying it all into a visible progression. Players moved up the right way.
To facilitate this, he got involved in every way possible. There were high-level licensing programs to take. He had ten years experience with the Jacksonville Soccer Club and five years with the NASL Tampa Bay Rowdies. From 1969 to 1972, and again in 1974, his U19 boys won USSF State of Florida championships, a precursor to the McGuire Cup competition of today. He was a Florida Coaches Association Coach of the Year and won several regional awards. Kennedy even got his clubs involved in games with naval teams from different countries whose ships docked in port. In short, for the good of the game, he had a decade of being everywhere.
George moved on to the state of North Carolina in 1977 with a two-year stint at Belmont Abbey, where he coached the late Tony Suarez (HOF, 2012) and garnered two NAIA Regional COY honors. This was Charlotte in the days when soccer was growing. It was the time of the Pressbox Soccer Club, where he would cross paths with a number of people in the Hall of Fame today. At the same time he was commuting to Winston-Salem, working with a Wake Forest club team that would move to varsity level in 1980. Kennedy (assisted by Gary Hall, HOF 2008) would be the Demon Deacons first coach, compiling a record of 57-34-11 over seven years and winning ACC COY Honors in 1982. He also won five U19 NC Championships with Twin City YSA teams in the 80’s, combining players from the area with those from Wake Forest.
In fact, teaching youth seemed to suit him best, and so he moved on. His longest tenure was at Western Guilford High School in Greensboro, where he worked with the boys and girls programs from 1987 until 2011, sometimes coaching JV and varsity at the same time. Included in his record are three NCHSAA championships: a 1992 3A title for the boys and two 1A/2A titles for the girls in 2004 and 2005. He won a number of COY awards, coached the West Girls in the 1999 East-West game and received the NCHSAA Distinguished Service Award in 1997. While at Western, he also served as chairman of the math department, coached swimming in the winter and oversaw construction of a soccer-only playing field.
Currently he is in his third year of coaching girls at Bishop McGuinness in Kernersville and still lives in Greensboro with his wife Janice. They have three children that were all involved with high school/college soccer, again proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree: Patrick, who was a men’s assistant coach at the Naval Academy and is now at the Pentagon; Nancy, a soccer mom in Pearl Harbor; and Brian, formerly with Eurosport and now working in California.
It is next to impossible to find some aspect of soccer that George Kennedy hasn’t touched. The Hall of Fame welcomes a tireless promoter of the beautiful game.