Kyle Kumer’s work in his t-shirt shop relies on great designs and making a good impression…literally.

As a soccer coach in Graceway’s league, he helps players understand God’s great design and hopes he leaves a good impression with them and their families. God’s plan for Kyle to impact young lives as a coach took many twists and turns before it–pardon the soccer pun– ‘kicked’ into gear.

While a high school freshman, Kyle played goalie on his small parochial school’s team. His family life was in turmoil, and he lost his confidence as a player when his family finally split apart. He walked away from soccer for ten years.

Kyle began earning a living by printing t-shirts, and eventually, with a friend’s encouragement, returned to the sport he once loved as a player, now as a coach.

“A friend suggested that I would make a good soccer coach, and I told him I definitely would be interested,” Kyle said. “I didn’t even ask what group I would be coaching or what school I would be at, I just let God take that lead.” The school? Kyle’s former school, the one at which he had walked away from soccer.

“Stepping up in obedience and my willingness to see what God had for me made a huge difference in my life,” Kyle said. “I always look for what is given to me with high hopes.”

Kyle saw a healthy model of leadership among the pastors and church directors when he and his wife Andi and his step-daughter started attending Graceway, and volunteer coaching in Graceway’s league was a natural next step. At Graceway, he has coached U6’s and U10’s.

Kyle has found that the soccer field can be a sort of sanctuary in the lives of players.  While he cannot control all that their lives throw at them and the variety of environments from which his players hail, he can mentor players by allowing them to ask questions, helping them deal with their fears, and helping them build trust in themselves.

“I cannot control who the next President will be, or even the weather,” Kyle said. ‘And kids cannot control their environment either. So how do we respond? We learn to be encouragers, to compliment one another, to pray, to simply be better at caring for one another.”

Kyle recounts a player who came to him and asked to be a team captain.  One of Kyle’s requirements of a captain is to pray for the team.  The player, was scared about praying at first but led the team in a prayer at mid-field the next week. “I was moved when he prayed for us because he overcame his fears, and that means he is being trained up,” Kyle said. He cites 2 Timothy 1:7, ‘For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind’ as a motivating verse.

“Maybe I can build a relationship with a player, help alleviate his or her fears, and leave a good impression with a family, where they see a Christian, a disciple, someone who cares. Our common ground is not only soccer but also God’s word.”

The ripple effect and the discipleship aspect of Kyle’s coaching is evident at Graceway and now beyond. Two parents of players from Kyle’s team last fall are now coaching teams of their own. Additionally, Kyle has begun a spin-off league for a mostly immigrant team in another part of the city.

“My wife has a heart for refugees, my mother-in-law had connections with some kids in need, and the resources to put the league in place came together through a local parks and recreation department’s donation of space and equipment.”

In part, the mission statement for Kyle’s league explains that the league exists to express absolute love of Jesus Christ to the kids he hopes to reach. He wants to help them know of their gifts not only on the field but also to the world. This desire to see God’s design revealed is one Kyle holds dear.

“I know that walking in obedience will lead to fulfillment,” Kyle said.”I would encourage everyone to look for doors that are open, saying yes to opportunities.”

For more information about what Kyle is doing with the Englewood Sports league visit englewoodsports.com