Fortunately, Alec LaBarge is a nice guy.
Spending an inordinate amount of his soccer-playing time on the turf after an extra-legal hit doesn’t provoke the Sumner High School junior, whose 24 goals and 13 assists propelled him to The News Tribune's 2018 All-Area boys soccer player of the year honors.
“He suffers through being fouled more than any other player in the area,” said first-year coach Todd Murray, who guided the Spartans to a third-place finish at the Class 4A state tournament in May.
“He picks himself up off the ground, and still finds a way to put the ball into the net.”
LaBarge, who also plays for Murray with Washington Premier FC, understands what all the fouls really mean.
“I take it as a compliment,” he said. “If they’re coming after me, it shows the only way they think they can stop me is to foul me. Eventually, they’re going to get a yellow card or a red card.”
As a year-round player whose club team plays at the highest level nationally, LaBarge’s soccer life could turn into a grind.
“On my club team, I really worried about my team depending on me. I felt pressure when I had the ball,” he said. “I didn’t want to lose.”
Taking over the Sumner job, Murray knew enjoyment of the process was a bigger part of the high school experience.
“I told Alec a lot of the fun of high school soccer comes from being with your teammates off the field,” Murray said. “It wasn’t the time for me to change how he plays. I wanted him to be freer and embrace it.”
An attacking center midfielder who can transition from offense to defense and back in a flash, LaBarge began to roam toward the sidelines more and deeper upfield.
“I was able to grow as a player,” he said.
The result was an area-leading 61 points (two for a goal, one for an assist), 4A SPSL offensive MVP honors and, of course, a team trophy at state.
Since his dad, Peter, played soccer at Western Washington University, it was no surprise LaBarge got started in the sport at age 4.
“I want to follow in his footsteps, that’s a big part of why I play,” he said. “Also, it’s exciting to be a part of a team. I also play golf, but you don’t get the same feeling as in a team sport.”
A youthful start may have helped him become a good player early on, but his instincts and physical gifts have continued to grow.
“He’s a natural goal scorer. He knows how to finish the ball,” Murray said. “You really can’t teach that.
“What’s unique about him is he’s slippery fast, can change speeds really well. He finds the right gaps to get into. The ball moves on his shot.”
“Scoring is about being in the right place at the right time,” he said. “I read the game, create chances for a teammate to find me. I try to make it simple — one quick burst of energy to beat a guy.”
LaBarge’s goal is to play at a Pac-12 school. He’s in touch with the University of Washington as well as WAC school Seattle University.
NCAA Division II Western Washington has already offered the junior a tuition scholarship.
His preparations for his senior year of high school soccer and college will take him across the country with Premier and, individually, across the Atlantic Ocean.
LaBarge is one of 32 American teenagers selected to train for a week at Real Madrid’s famed academy during August.
“I’m super excited. When I got accepted my jaw dropped,” he said. “Knowing I’ll get to see how they do things at the highest level is amazing.”
Murray can’t wait to see how it all comes together next season.
“Alec’s going to take the things he did this season, and the experiences he’ll have this summer and really blossom," he said. "He’s not egotistical. He’ll put in the work and be twice the player he was this year.”