A sparkling soccer career that began a generation ago and ended in June 2014 gets deserved recognition with the induction of Josh McKinney into the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame in 2015. His is an inspirational story that can teach all of us something about the power of the competitive spirit.
A West Virginia native, McKinney was born with a form of cerebral palsy that primarily affects the muscles on the right side of his body. His mother Nancy, a guiding and driving force in his life, sought to alleviate his condition by having him play league soccer as early as age four. Club and high school experiences would follow, along with four years of play with Concord College in Athens, WV (1999-2002). But it would be in 1995 that Josh would find his real athletic calling, as he first discovered the existence of seven-a-side Paralympic soccer. He rose quickly in the ranks and actually led the 1996 US National team in scoring in Atlanta with five goals as they finished fourth. And so the legacy of Josh McKinney had truly begun.
He would go on to compete all over the world with the national team, including the Paralympics in Athens (2004) and in London (2012). Other highlights would include the 2002 Kerkrade Netherlands tournament, where he won the Golden Boot (and the team would win an international title), and the 2010 Copa America in Buenos Aires, where the team would finish as runner-up. There were 124 appearances and 81 goals for the midfielder, an all-time leading mark, and the team captaincy beginning in 2005. His playing leadership would manifest itself one last time in June 2014 after he had scored his final goal in a 3-0 win against Portugal in the International Trophy of a 7-a-side Football tournament in Barcelona. He had a custom of taping his wrists before games, and in the final contest that followed against England, his teammates all came out with their wrists also taped. Imitation, in this case, was the sincerest form of respect.
But McKinney’s contributions have also gone far beyond statistics. Soccer has pushed a quiet and unselfish player into the role of a vocal leader and it has been noticed by his peers. Stuart Sharp, national Paralympics team coach in 2014, commented that Josh “dedicated his time away from camp to train hard…. To get to and remain at the top for over two decades takes a lot of sacrifice. Josh has always been willing to put the needs of his country in front of many of his own personal ambitions.”
As a current resident and employee in the Triangle, Josh McKinney continues to promote his sport and cause with that same passion. He is running camps and continues to organize programs for young players with disabilities. The Capital Area Soccer League may see Paralympic programs in the future if he has his way. And it all echoes a statement from his mother that appeared in a publication: “We just wanted him to know that you can do it. No matter what it is, do it and don’t lower your expectations.” Josh certainly has followed her advice, and deserving kids should see the benefits. Congratulations on a NC Soccer Hall of Fame selection and a job continually well done.