Tom Kenworthy was a pioneer and an innovator in Georgia youth soccer in the 1970s and early 80’s. He recruited before there were Select, OD or Club teams, scouring the metro Atlanta area for talented players for his team, and oftentimes providing “Tom K shuttle service” picking them up for practice and dropping them back home afterwards. He actively sought out-of-town competition before the advent of “travel soccer.” He would find teams in other Georgia towns, out of state locales and nationally recognized tournaments so that his team always had the highest level of competition.
He built a powerhouse youth team called “the Cougars” that compiled a record that few have seen before or since, winning 100+ games, multiple state championships, one state runner-up finish, innumerable league and tournament championships, and placing third in the Southeastern Regional Tournament, only losing to the eventual national champion. He didn’t just rely on recruited talent. Where Tom K. really flourished was developing talent. Anyone can recruit talent; few can develop it and even fewer can build a team around it. Tom Kenworthy did all three. Through his team newsletters, one-on-one coaching, off-season tailored instruction, and mentoring, he developed talent. He built a massive kick-board in his front yard that his players used to sharpen their skills. The front lawn on his house was always worn down to a dirt patch from 2v2 and 3v3 games that were played there all times of the year and all who played there remember the threat of mortal injury posed by the Kenworthy’s Yucca plant. You were always one good shoulder-to-shoulder away from impalement on the Yucca bush. It was sad to see the yard finally sodded and the kickboard taken down, but Tom knew his work was done and that his wife, Suzan, deserved to finally have a nice yard and a view unobstructed by a 8×12’ wooden kickboard.
By the time Tom passed the Cougar’s coaching whistle to another coach, he had made a lifelong impact on his players. He was a great coach, a great mentor, and a second father to many on his team. His players went on to very successful soccer careers in high school and college. Eight of the eleven starters on the 1984 Lakeside High School Men’s State Runner-up team played for Tom Kenworthy. Even in high school, you could hear Tom K’s sonorous voice coming from the stands and coaching his old players to victory. Forty years later, five of Tom K’s players are still playing in the Silverbacks league, albeit at a slightly slower pace.
We lost Tom Kenworthy this year, but we will never lose the lasting legacy he had on Georgia soccer and the incredible impact he had on the lives of his beloved Cougar players.