By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Kyle Selby has given many speeches, holding his trademark clipboard, to his Cougar and Lady Cougar soccer players over the past 6 years.
The man who became the first head coach of both programs put down his clipboard and had to deliver his toughest address to his players last month.
“I resigned as the coach because I had accepted a job in engineering,” Selby said. “I got a degree in mechanical engineering. I’ve been in the industry of engineering for 21 years. After 6 years at Munford High School, I just felt the situation was best for me to look back into engineering. An opportunity came up and it was something I really felt for my family, I could not pass up.”
Selby said despite the opportunity of a lifetime being presented to him in engineering, he said it took several talks with his wife Cheryl and daughters Alex and Paige before accepting. The only soccer coach Munford High School has known noted what made the decision so hard was leaving his players.
Before there were standouts like Alex Selby, Erik Furseth, Maggie Johnson, Jaylen Hill, Troy Moyer, and Cedrick Williams to become college soccer signees, Coach Selby literally had to lay the foundation.
“Day one was like a whirlwind,” he recalled. “You’re out there trying to figure out what you have and what you need. We didn’t have any practice balls. We didn’t have goals. We had half of a field.”
Selby had to loaded up a donated goal frame from a local church. He later added the net using addition rope to lock it into the frame.
The first practice field was half regulation size in a goat pasture. Over the years, the coaches and volunteers cut trees and grass giving the soccer programs an ideal practice field.
“You look back at those times as some of the greatest times,” Selby said. “It was something special to be a part of.”
Selby said he was just a part of the program with his wife being an assistant and soccer minds like Bobby Picchi teaching the players.
“I feel very, very good where (the program) is now,” he said. “But we’ve got to understand, it’s not something I did by myself. We had a lot parents who have helped. Teachers who have supported this program. The administration allowed me to be able to do the things I was trying to do.
“It was a lot of long hours,” Selby added. “But we had a vision 6 years ago. Where we are right now, I would say this team is set financially, with equipment and materials. But mostly, we’re set with good kids. Kids who know if you’re going to come into this program there are expectations you have to live up to. Those expectations are not always easy to live up to.”
Selby held all his players including his daughter Alex to those standards and mission. Alex became the first soccer signee in the school’s history to Mississippi College as a goalie.
A few years later Furseth made his mark as an outstanding Munford goalie winning national awards. He signed to play at The University of Memphis. Both players get random phone calls from Coach Selby to see how grades are and if they are making it to practice on time.
“I will miss the kids,” he said. “When you’re a coach, a teacher or an advisor, you’re probably around these kids more than anybody else in their life. You know what they struggle with. You know their future plans. You know how hard they’ve worked. As a coach of this program, it’s your program and they’re your kids. I tell my parents, ‘These kids are my kids. If there is something wrong, I want to help.’”
Selby receives phone calls from players across the country throughout the week. And he made sure he communicated with past, current and even future players during his tenure.
Those players won several championships on the field while wearing the maroon and gold of Cougar Soccer. The Lady Cougars won the District 13-3A title in 2012 and the Cougars finished atop the league in 2014. The Lady Cougars reached Regionals 5 times and the Cougars made 4 trips.
Off the field, the programs were racking up the awards locally and nationally. The Lady Cougars were a six-time TSSAA Highest Academic Award winner. The Cougars won four straight TSSAA Highest Academic Awards, finishing second the first two years under Selby.
Both programs were four-time NSCCA Highest Academic Award winners.
“It was more than just about soccer,” Selby said. “My legacy shouldn’t be about wins and losses. It should be there were dozens of kids who came through these programs who will go out into the world and make something of themselves. And maybe I had something to do with teaching them right from wrong and responsibility. I want them to be able to shoot out for a high standard instead of aiming low.
“I’ve always had a couple of saying I always said to them,” he concluded. “‘If you want something, you’ll find a way. And if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.’ And the other one I’ve always told them, ‘Do the right things for the right reasons all the time.’”