A dozen or so teen-agers and pre-teens silently surround the fit, silver-haired coach who stands, speaking, in the middle of Auke Bay Elementary's gymnasium. A neon green ball falls from one boy's arms, and without thinking, he bounces it a couple of times. Realizing what he's done, he drops down and performs a pair of push-ups.
Soccer instructor Colin Barton doesn't acknowledge the infraction at his clinic for goalies, but he does endorse the penance. ``Thank you, sir,'' he says.
Barton, who played professional soccer with England's Doncaster Rovers in the 1950s, requires students who attend his Thursday night goalie clinic to know a goal-keeper shouldn't drop the ball. When one does, he or she automatically executes two push-ups.
``Anyone in sports knows there are boundaries, expectations and responsibilities,'' Barton said. ``I thank them, because they're learning.''
Barton is an Englishman who has played and coached amateur, semi-pro and professional soccer in his home country and in Sweden, where he lived most of his life. About four years ago, he married a Juneau woman who was visiting relatives in Sweden and moved to her hometown.
Almost immediately, he became involved in the local soccer scene. In addition to the goalie clinic, a project done in conjunction with the Juneau Soccer Club, Barton works with soccer programs at Floyd Dryden Middle School and Juneau-Douglas High School, hosts coaching seminars and works with individual teams.
``He's Juneau's Mr. Soccer,'' said photographer Mark Kelley, who coaches the Orcas, a boys soccer team shooting for a state championship.
Kelley and fellow coach Don Ashe have retained Barton to sharpen the boys' team skills. Barton's looking forward to working with the Orcas.
``They have good individual skills,'' he said. ``They're a very talented group.''
Barton's also excited about a series of coaching symposiums he's offering. The first, entitled Development or Dependency, will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 21 at the University of Alaska's Mourant Building.
Barton thinks parents in Juneau who've coached soccer have done a tremendous job. And he believes it's important to continue to develop skills, so he hopes to pass on some coaching and tactical elements of soccer at the seminars.
Catch Barton in action during a goal-keeping clinic, for example, and you'll see he demonstrates not only correct ball-catching procedures, but also teaches proper methods of falling and other complex and specialized moves.
Ashe has attended some of Barton's coaching conferences.
``Colin's so effective, that by the time he's done, everyone's trying to develop a Swedish accent,'' Ashe said.
Barton's unique in this town, according to Ashe, because he holds an international coaching license and has been involved with the sport at the highest level. Still, Ashe said, Barton's ability to relate to young players is what makes Juneau most fortunate.
Justin Dorn, a junior at JDHS and a soccer player who's placed high in the sport's regional level, agreed. ``He goes out of his way to help people individually,'' he said. ``You can tell he really cares.''
Robert Lossell, a JDHS sophomore who's ranked among the top 50 soccer players in his age group in the West, is galvanized by Barton's professional status. ``It gives us an edge,'' he said. ``He's seen the best in the world. It motivates me to do well in front of him.''
JDHS Head Coach Gary Lehnhart respects Barton's technical ability as well as his honesty. ``He tells the kids the truth, even if it's hard,'' Lehnhart said. ``The players appreciate that.''
Barton also works regionally, as head coach for all girls soccer in the state through the Alaska Youth Soccer Association. He's also head coach for the state soccer team of girls born in 1986 and will take them to camp in Portland, Ore., this summer.
Coaching has been a rewarding experience for Barton. A former student from Europe was nominated to the World Cup All-Star Team in 1994 and he still hears from players he coached 25 years ago, thanking him for his effort.
Barton could talk for hours about what he likes best about soccer, but summed it up briefly.
``It's the largest and most popular sport in the world,'' he said. ``Boys and girls can play. It offers every aspect of sportsmanship. I've met hundreds through soccer. All the experiences are priceless.''
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