MARQUETTE - He played soccer just twice in a high school physical education class and largely got involved in the sport as a coach for his son's team.
Now, Jim Mackey of Marquette finds himself as president of the Superiorland Soccer Association that consists of more than 1,000 players and 210 coaches, and hosts a two-weekend spring tournament in Marquette that features some 70 teams.
Oh, he also coaches two local youth soccer squads, as well.
Jim Mackey, president of the Superiorland Soccer Association, offers support from the sidelines for one of the teams he coaches on?Wednesday, June 27. Mackey is head coach for a U-8 coed squad that his son, Eric, plays for and an assistant coach for a U-6 coed team. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
"I'm starting to like soccer," Mackey, 48, said with a smile. "I can support children being active and having a positive lifestyle.
"My son (Eric, 7 on Friday) enjoys soccer and makes good friends. That's the nuts and bolts of why I got involved."
The elder Mackey, his wife Elizabeth - an emergency medicine physician at Marquette General Hospital - and Eric moved to Marquette from Battle Creek 18 months ago.
- President of Superiorland Soccer
Association and volunteer coach
- Moved to Marquette with his wife, Elizabeth, and son, Eric, 18 months ago
- Former paramedic
After guiding his son's team downstate, he resumed coaching here last summer and became the equipment director for the SSA.
Then-SSA president Myra Zyburt decided to step down from her post and Mackey was asked to take over.
"I met with Myra and (treasurer) Gloria LaPointe to get some background information," he recalled. "After our annual board meeting in September when I was elected, I remember it washing over me "my God, what have I gotten myself into?'"
As SSA president, Mackey directs three components of the organization: the recreation soccer program, the travel program and the April spring tournament at the Superior Dome in Marquette.
"My job is to keep all the plates spinning," the stay-at-home dad said. "(The SSA) is a real dynamic organization and constantly changing."
Planning for the 10-week summer recreation season that now involves 850 players ages 5-18 begins in November in preparation for registration that opens in January.
The pace picks up for Mackey and his SSA board members as the spring and summer seasons take shape.
"There are constant emails involved," the former paramedic said. "I spend two hours on (SSA) emails every day."
Before the recreation season started last month, he said he spent about 70 hours a week on SSA work. Now, between that and coaching Eric's U-8 co-ed team and a U-6 squad, he's putting in 20-24 hours a week.
"He's one of the most dedicated volunteers I've ever met," SSA vice president and interim U.S. Olympic Education Center director Brian Gaudreau said. "He never stops working on the SSA. He's always working on new ideas.
"It's more than a full time job for him. You don't find that commitment very often.
"He communicates well, asks for input and everyone is committed to him," added Gaudreau, who coaches the Wave 98 U-14 girls soccer team. "He's one of the most outstanding volunteers we have in the community right now."
Mackey said one of the most difficult aspects of his position has been to get to know the board members and the volunteers involved with the SSA.
"When you're dealing with any volunteer organization, you need to know the strengths and weaknesses in the organization," he said. "You have to work within those strengths and weaknesses, myself included."
Mackey said he's fortunate to have widespread support in the community for the SSA.
"We have wonderful board members who put countless hours into the organization and community groups who give us money," he said. "The best part is the number of people involved in the program."
Mackey wanted to coach Eric this summer, who moved up a division. But the elder Mackey didn't want to leave some of Eric's teammates who stayed behind.
"I enjoyed them and their parents," he said. "So I'm an assistant coach with the U-6 team.
"Parents here are so supportive of their kids and the (SSA) program. They're kind and cheer for both teams."
He added he sometimes becomes impatient in trying to implement improvements in the SSA program.
"Some things I want, I want now," Mackey said. "We need an indoor soccer facility for year-round soccer play in Marquette. Right now, we're a three-month sport here."
Still, he said he finds his post as SSA president "rewarding."
"When I walk onto the Kaufman Complex and see (soccer) fields filled with kids having a good time and parents cheering, you can't bottle that," he said. "It's pretty potent.
"You get a tremendous amount of satisfaction."
In the midst of a two-year term as SSA president, he said he has committed six years to the position, if wanted.
"As long as Eric is involved (in soccer), I'm willing to stay involved," he said.
"When I was a paramedic, there weren't a lot of happy endings. With this, there are happy endings."
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251.