Graphic Courtesy Appalachian FC
On February 1st, Appalachian FC announced Dale Parker as their first-ever head coach, beginning a new era for soccer in the High Country. On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., the club will be hosting its first open try-outs at the Ted Mackorell Soccer Complex in Boone.
“It’s an honor and exciting project, it’s an area that’s close to home for me, ” Parker said.
It’s been nearly a year since App State cut its men’s soccer program, a huge loss to soccer fans in the Boone area. However, good news emerged in November 2020 after the National Premier Soccer League announced that a new team was set to join their league: Appalachian Football Club.
Appalachian FC will be part of the East Region and South East Conference of the NPSL and is set to start competing in the 2021 inaugural season starting in May. The NPSL is a fourth division soccer league and is a member of the United States Adult Soccer Federation, therefore being associated with the United States Soccer Federation.
Former App State men’s soccer coach and Appalachian FC owner Jason O’Keefe had high praise for Parker, saying in a press release, “We are excited to announce the appointment of Dale Parker as the first head coach of Appalachian FC. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience which will help the club build and develop our team for the inaugural season and beyond.”
Parker moved to North Carolina from England to play soccer for Lees-McRae College. It was a strange transition for him, moving from a small, heavily populated town in England to Banner Elk, the complete opposite of what he’d experienced prior.
“It was definitely an eye-opener moving here,” Parker said. “You see the U.S. on TV and build a picture of what it’s like, then you come to Banner Elk, North Carolina and you see the real America.”
Parker stumbled upon the coaching world when he started a player/coach role for Lees-McRae. After that experience, he took a full-time position as a director of coaching for a soccer club called Chesterfield United Football Club in Richmond, Virginia.
“I wanted to stay in the game that has given me so much over my life and give back to the game, with coaching naturally being the best way to give back,” Parker said.
When speaking about coaches in his time that have inspired him, Parker mentioned Chris Whalley, his former head coach at Lees-McRae.
“Chris Whalley was a big influence for me at Lees-McRae College, transforming how I look at myself and push by barriers and achieve things I didn’t think I could as a player,” Parker said.
The soccer community in Boone took a hit last year with the cut of App State’s men’s team, but now that void is being filled with the Appalachian FC.
“Providing the community with a great soccer experience that fills the gap from App State men’s soccer cut is the number one goal,” Parker said. “We also want to compete, we’re not here to just make up numbers. We want to make an impact in the league.”
The Appalachian FC is set to host open tryouts Saturday, with players from different backgrounds coming in to attempt to make their professional soccer dreams come true. Players from all levels of college soccer, local players, and more are coming to try to make history by being one of the inaugural Appalachian FC squad members.
“Players with strong character who buy into playing for the community and (being) part of something bigger than themselves is what I’m narrowing it down to,” Parker said. “I want a system that suits the players we have, being proactive on and off the ball.”
A huge challenge for Appalachian FC will be setting up a squad and getting ready to compete in just two months.
“Ultimately, we’re putting a team together of roughly twenty-six players who have never played together before, (and) the first thing I plan to do is get us all on the same page with the limited time we have before the season starts,” Parker said.
Parker is currently the assistant head coach at D-II Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina. Parker has a great relationship with Lander head coach Lee Squires, being former teammates at Lees-McRae.
“We’re unbeaten so far this season, it would be nice to finish a strong season with Lander and jump straight to coaching Appalachian FC.”
With all spots taken up for the open tryouts this Saturday, Appalachian FC will be hosting a second and final open tryout on Saturday, April 3.
“I always feel the best experience is yet to come, as a player or a coach,” Parker said. ”Hopefully, my favorite years in coaching will come in 2021 at the Ted Mackorell Soccer Complex with the Appalachian FC.”