Valerie Hodges is one proud mother.
The Overland Park resident will see her son and Director of Coaching of Legends FC (CA-S), Josh Hodges, bring three teams to compete in the 2013 US Youth Soccer National Championships. Josh, who coaches the Under-13 and Under-18 teams, spent his childhood in Overland Park before heading to California to play college soccer.
"I’m just so proud and excited to see him coach in the National Championships. If I had to describe him in one word, it would be passionate," Valerie said. "He puts his heart and soul into that club. Even when he comes and visits, if there is a tournament or a competition, I’ll see him at the dining room table working away."
Josh Hodges had an opportunity to return to Overland Park when the National Championships were held in Overland Park in 2010, but his team lost in the Regional finals.
"I could tell how disappointed he was when they lost. He wanted to come back and coach in the National Championships so bad," Valerie Hodges said. "But he’s coaching two teams this year, so we are very excited."
Valerie Hodges can’t hide her delight as she recounts her son’s childhood. Valerie describes the wooden goals Josh’s grandfather built for him, and the patches of ruined grass that still remain as a result of being under those goals.
"He has always loved soccer. When he was a kid, he always had a ball with him," Valerie Hodges said. "The neighborhood kids would come over, and we would always have a soccer game going on in either the front yard or the back yard."
One of those players was Josh’s younger brother, Matt. Valerie Hodges commends the two of them for keeping such a close relationship despite an eight year age difference. Matt Hodges is currently coaching three Legends teams.
Josh Hodges starting playing club in middle school, and went on to play in high school at Shawnee Mission West High School. After high school, Hodges went to play college soccer in California. While playing at Azusa Pacific, Hodges began coaching at Glendora High School. Glendora didn’t have a club soccer scene at the time. So after college, Hodges started Glendora FC in 2002.
"He always knew he wanted to coach," Valerie Hodges said. "Right out of college he took that opportunity, and I would say it has worked out so far."
Valerie Hodges chuckled after her own severe understatement. In 2007, Glendora merged with Stampede FC to form Legends FC. The powerhouse has been capturing state and regional titles left and right. Last year, the club captured its first National Championship when the Under-15 Girls Legends FC team defeated Kings Soccer Academy (OH-S) 1-0 in the finals.
Valerie and her husband try to watch as many Legends games as possible. Their most recent trip was earlier this year they helped out at the Legends Tournament.
"I always enjoy those visits so much. I always end up cleaning his house," Valerie Hodges said before laughing. "That and I always have food ready after practice."
Last year, when Valerie and her husband found out Josh would be coaching his Under-17 Girls team in the finals of the National Championships, the two hopped in the car and drove overnight to Rock Hill, S.C.
"It was a rough drive, but it was worth it to see him coach in the finals," Valerie Hodges said. "Unfortunately things didn’t work out the way we hoped."
Legends lost to VSA Heat (VA) 6-0 in the finals. Despite the frustration, Valerie Hodges explains it was one of the moments in which she has felt the most proud her son.
"After the game, all of the girls fell to the ground. One by one Josh went over there and gave them a hug," Valerie Hodges said. "He even came over and gave me a hug. That’s just the kind of guy he is."
It would be easy to forget that Josh Hodges will have his hands full coaching two teams at the National Championships with all of the events planned for the team.
"We will have a big party at my house with all three of the teams," Valerie Hodges said. "Josh will take them on a tour of his middle and high school, and they will also tour the Sporting KC Arena."
While there will be plenty of events, Valerie Hodges assures that the teams will be plenty focused and prepared.
"His Under-18 suffered a rough loss last year, and they will be going off to college next year. So this might be the last chance," Valerie Hodges said. "I always tell Josh, all you can do is try your best, and I have no doubt they will."
This year’s National Championships represents the rare opportunity for Valerie Hodges to watch her son coach in the city he grew up and played soccer in. Her modesty is on full display when describing her son’s characteristics.
"I always say he got all of his good qualities from his dad," Valerie Hodges said with a giggle. "He gets his calmness and composure from his dad, but when he gets emotional on the sideline, I say he gets that from me."
Josh’s parents will be joined by his grandmother and hopefully some of his childhood friends on the sideline this week. For Valerie Hodges, there is no place she would rather be.
"This is his life, and he loves it," Valerie Hodges said. "And it’s the joy of my life to see him do it."