E.A. Sports Today

Faith starts new era

Patten takes over Faith soccer program, looking for his team to ‘turn the page’ of change and build its own identity

By Garrett Steward
For East Alabama Sports Today

The Faith Christian soccer program that has achieved much success in the past is starting fresh this year. With longtime coach Erik McDaniel leaving, the Lions needed someone to lead this team and they believe they’ve found him in Dan Patten.

Patten has been around the game for a while, coaching U-12, U-10 and U-8 soccer the last few years in Anniston. He also coached and was commissioner for Faith Presbyterian’s youth soccer league and has been a referee in the sport most of his life.

“I love the game of soccer, and even more, I love the opportunity to interact with people, make things better, and build relationships,” he said after he prepared the team for its season opener Friday at Jacksonville. “I saw this as a door God opened for me to do both of those things and to be a part of a sport that I really love.”

The program he takes over finished second in the state last year. While he recognizes the success it had with McDaniel and the star players of the past, he believes it’s time to turn the page.

“One of the first things I told this team when we got together is that my first goal for them is to find their own identity,” said Patten, whose wife Lori is a Spanish teacher at the school. “The things they did in the past were amazing, but this is a new chapter for us.

“If we dwell on the success of last year’s team, it will just frustrate us. If we use those things to motivate us and drive us, you will see some individual players have a lot of success this year and in years to come.”

Senior goalkeeper Caleb McCord is confident his team will grow to the new coach quickly.

“It’s going to be weird to get used to, but you’re always thrown change in your life; you just have to get used to it,” he said. “Everybody on the team respects him, and we want to just let him do his thing. We will give him our best on the field.”

McDaniel had a very successful 16-year run at Faith. This past summer he took a position to pastor a growing church in Jasper, Tenn. His son, Josiah, and Tyler Johnson, the two leaders of last year’s team, are playing at Covenant College in nearby Chattanooga.

“The Lord called me,” McDaniel said. “When our church sent me to seminary nine years ago, we all knew this day would come. I’ve been learning and growing toward this all my life.”

Faith lost some top players last year to graduation and other reasons, but Patten and his squad are confident in their ability to succeed. McCord said the potential to return to the playoffs is there, but “we’ve just got to work on it.”

“I see a lot of talent, maybe talent that not everybody else sees,” Patten said. “I see a lot of players who love this game and truly want to be out here. They recognize that Faith soccer is an important and awesome program.”

Coby Booth, another significant returning player looking to step into a leadership role this season, likes the possibilities.

“It’s going to be more of a learning season,” he said. “There are a lot of young players who haven’t played before, so it’ll be a rebuilding year, for sure. It will be a different season than the ones in the past, but it won’t be any less special than those. We are looking to go out, give it our all and give the fans the best games we can.”

On the cover: New coach Dan Patten (center, brown shirt) talks to his Faith Christian soccer team during a recent practice. (Photo by Garrett Steward)

Garrett Steward is a junior at Faith Christian School and an aspiring sports writer. This is his second contribution to East Alabama Sports Today.

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