Volunteers drive SYAAPublished 8:37pm Saturday, October 13, 2012
The Suffolk Youth Athletic Association is built 100 percent through volunteer support, and one of the most remarkable volunteers came from the Ivory Coast.
Michel Bilé first came to the United States in 1990 as a summer counselor at a handicap camp in New Hampshire.
“I later realized I could make a better life for myself in the U.S., so I decided to stay,” he stated.
He started coaching for SYAA when he first moved to Suffolk in 1996. His 11-year old son Jean-Louis was accepted onto a team, and Bilé became an assistant coach to help out. He now is currently coaching five teams during the current fall soccer season at SYAA while also serving as the vice president of the SYAA board and as the director of coaching.
“Just the opportunity to serve the youth in the city of Suffolk and seeing them cultivate their athletic abilities (especially in soccer) draws me closer to the community I live,” Bilé wrote in an email. “I get great joy and a sense of accomplishment knowing that I have made a difference in a child’s life.”
Bilé personal soccer experience began at the age of 2 in the Ivory Coast.
“I continued playing in elementary, middle and high school in Ghana,” he stated. “Later, I played for an under 22 regional, Premier, Division 1 select team in Ghana.”
SYAA teams are broken up into three overall tiers: recreational, advanced and select. The latter represents the highest skill level and divisions within that category narrow down the elite even more.
Bilé coaches rec teams for U4, boys U9, and girls U9 teams, an advanced team for U12, and a select team for U12. He has three boys, ages 3, 8 and 12, who play.
With five teams, Bilé frequently cannot attend all of the games because the team schedules conflict. Most games are played on Saturdays, with the select team playing on Sundays. Each squad has an assistant coach that can manage the team on game day if needed, but Bilé oversees all practices during the week.
That schedule requires him to be at the SYAA soccer fields on Mondays and Thursdays for the U9 boys and girls team practice, Tuesdays and Fridays for a joint advanced and select U12 practice, and Wednesdays for U4.
“So, pretty much all week — seven days a week,” Bilé said.
Keller Watts has a 12-year old son, Aidan, on Bilé’s U12 select team and has been very impressed with the coach’s ability.
“Not every player translates into being a great coach, but he’s a terrific coach,” Watts said. “If you’ve been through the rec cycle of soccer and up until travel soccer, you get all types and he’s definitely fair and balanced. It pushes the kids in a very constructive manner.”
The select U12 team is a Division 1 team, meaning they are in the highest possible skill level for that age group. They are also quite good, currently sitting atop the standing with a 4-0 record.
“The skill level that they play with, he has a heavy hand in that,” Watts said. “They’re undefeated and they’re playing against some Beach teams that are heavily funded.”
As director of coaching, Bilé is of special assistance to any and all of the coaches of SYAA’s 60 fall soccer teams.
“(It’s) pretty much just trying to see what we can do to make it easier for these coaches with respect to technical training, helping them resolve coaching issues, helping support the league commissioner,” Bilé said.
Stacy Pauley is the SYAA soccer commissioner, and she affirms the value of Bilé’s contributions to the organization.
“He is a huge asset to me,” Pauley stated. “I know I can always call him, and I can count on him to always be there.”
As vice president of the SYAA board, Bilé has moved into different territory, being tasked with policy-writing.
With all of these responsibilities, Bilé actually does have a day job, and it is nothing minor. He is the director of finance — plan accounting for Amerigroup Corporation Inc.
“He runs ragged,” Watts said. “I think he finished his MBA up last year while coaching two or three teams this year.”
While still coaching two teams this past spring, Bilé did indeed graduate from Old Dominion University with his master’s degree in business administration. Even his commencement had to share the spotlight because it fell on a game day.
“Yes, he showed up here (at the SYAA fields) on graduation day and then went and graduated,” Pauley said.
Bilé has also served as a soccer referee, and he coaches soccer at a clinic that meets once a week from March to May for 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds
When asked if he has any plans to retire from coaching, he has a simple answer.
“Not any time soon.”