When Adam Talmadge surveyed the local youth soccer scene in the Gig Harbor and greater south sound area, he didn’t love what he saw. Playing for the top, select and premiere teams in the area could cost families thousands of dollars per year.
Paying coaches. Paying for travel. Paying league dues. Paying for the newest gear.
Many families, he observed, simply couldn’t afford that.
“As a parent, I saw that parents were paying $3,000 or $4,000 per year, and I saw that the kids weren’t necessarily getting better,” Talmadge said. “There are kids that can’t afford paying for these premiere teams, but they’ve grown up playing together and are really motivated. There’s a premiere program here and a recreational one. There’s nothing in between. The kids who wanted to play at a higher level had no other option.”
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So Talmadge, a 47-year-old Gig Harbor resident and business owner, took over as the head coach of the “Kicking Snakes” youth girls soccer team — which is part of Harbor Soccer Club, as a recreational team — three years ago, when the group of girls, including Talmadge’s step-daughter, were about 7 and 8 years old. He decided to volunteer his time.
Talmadge, who grew up in West Seattle, attended the University of Washington as an undergrad and studied law at Seattle University, realized fairly quickly this wouldn’t be an average recreational team.
“When we started three years ago, they played at the lowest level of soccer,” Talmadge said. “Then we decided to go up to rec level. The year after that, we went to a stronger league.”
This year, with the same group of girls, now 10 and 11 years old, are playing in the North Puget Sound Soccer League, a select league. The team, which is still a recreational team as part of the Harbor Soccer Club, has a 3-1-1 record this fall in the NPSL.
“At each level, they keep winning and keep wanting more,” Talmadge said. “We hardly have any kids that leave.”
Talmadge, and the rest of the coaches — Mitch Snell, Jeff Labowitz and John Liston, all coach for free and volunteer their time with the team, which has 14 players.
And often, when the Kicking Snakes team has faced select teams in tournaments, they’ve ended up beating them.
“It’s like a David and Goliath thing,” Talmadge said. “We know we’re the underdog. We don’t have all the fancy high-priced gear, some of the things that other teams have. We make up for it with hard and dedication. The kids practice two hours and you’ll have to drag them off the field. They’re so motivated and interested in what they’re doing.”
Talmadge also works to bring in positive female role models to speak to the girls. They brought in Gig Harbor High School star and Washington State University commit Alyssa Gray to speak to the team. Recently, they took the girls to a women’s soccer practice at the University of Puget Sound.
“It’s just people who are succeeding in their field,” Talmadge said. “Getting the girls excited about going to college, and for those who want to, playing soccer in college.”
Mostly, the girls on the team have fun playing together. They have team dinners, do different things together as a team. And on the field, the chemistry has been positive.
“It’s the most fun thing I’ve ever been a part of,” Talmadge said. “The feeling of the community is what we enjoy most.”