Jay Adams Honored as YMCA Light of the Valley in Wheeling
WHEELING — When Jay Adams first got involved with soccer, he knew little to nothing about the sport.
His youngest son, Jamie, had taken up the game at an early age and his team needed a coach.
Fast forward 35 years later and Adams has been one of the most influential people in helping grow the sport in Ohio Valley. He’s helped introduce it to area youth and mentored many young lives.
For his efforts, Adams was presented the 2018 Dr. Lee Jones Patron of Youth Award during the annual YMCA Light of the Valley luncheon Wednesday at Wheeling Park’s White Palace.
“It is very awkward, but at the same time fulfilling,” Adams said. “You don’t plan on this stuff. You go from day to day and every year is different. You hope you get to the next year and you hope you are making opportunities.
“Then you look back and it is 35 years.
“I never thought I would have a hand in helping soccer to get to what it is. There was a lot of excitement in 1993 because of the U.S. getting the World Cup. But where we were in the mix of all that, in West Virginia, a small state, it was a little overwhelming. But we found a way through hard work and organization.”
Adams began coaching soccer in 1983 for the Wheeling Area Soccer Association, and later helped form Wheeling’s first travel soccer team, the Wheeling Eagles, today known as FC Wheeling United.
Adams also helped grow soccer at the high school level as the commissioner of the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference. At the time, there were six boys’ teams playing soccer. During his tenure, which lasted from 1990-2004, he helped that number grow to a combined 44 boys’ and girls’ teams. He also created the OVAC Cup Tournament and all-star games.
“When we saw new programs coming year after year, and some in football-rich towns, we knew we were doing something right,” Adams said. “When Steubenville came on, it was like ‘Whoa this is catching on.’
“I just think the key was putting the teams into divisions according to ability,” he said. “That saved a lot of new programs from extinction. That put a lot of like teams together and allowed them to be competitive. As they got better they moved up. We had 15-16 teams, then all of a sudden 25 teams. It jumped hard after about three or four years.”
Adams was inducted into the West Virginia Soccer Association Hall of Fame in 2015.
For him, soccer has also been a way to get closer with his family.
He and his wife, Chris, have three sons — Jamie, Jason and Chad — who all played soccer for The Linsly School and later Princeton University. All three also were inducted into the West Virginia Soccer Association Hall of Fame.
Chad Adams, who introduced his father, told of a story where Jay Adams showed up for a game in a downpour at Harvard, the only person in the stands on the Princeton side.
Chad was so moved he had the best game of his collegiate career.
“He taught us to dream big,” Chad Adams said. “He never let us use growing up in a small town or a small state as an excuse not to shoot for the stars. One of the reasons he is sitting here today is you pushed the boundaries of a lot of different things and you dared people to look beyond what we’ve done in the past and say ‘but the future can be so much greater and so much bigger.'”
A video tribute was shown featuring comments from Jason Adams, Jason Koegler and Wheeling Jesuit University men’s soccer coach Jim Regan.
The guest speaker was West Virginia University women’s soccer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown.
“I look back to how Jay and I intertwined and I knew when I took over the program, I knew I would not only have to grow a collegiate program, but soccer in the community,” Izzo-Brown said. “There are a lot of special people that made that happen and one of those people is Jay Adams.
“Jay and I met in at a 4-H camp in Jackson’s Mill. In West Virginia, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for young girls to play soccer and Jay and I believed they needed to have that opportunity.
“Without you, Jay, a lot of people wouldn’t have had that opportunity. People like Jay motivated me. The most successful coaches and the most important coaches should be at the youth level and that is what Jay did. Passion and power. He didn’t have to give to the soccer community but he did. I am a huge fan and I thank you, Jay.”
Today, Jay Adams spends his days helping with the C3 Soccer Camp, a free soccer camp held in the summer for boys and girls ages 4-10. The camp teaches soccer skills and helping with spiritual guidance.
“Thank you to the YMCA Board,” Jay Adams said. “When Jamie (Bordas) called me, it was the shock of my life. I am so grateful. My family, you are amazing and have made me look good for a lot of years. I think back to the thousands of miles we spent to watch the kids, the joy to coach the boys, those were great times.”