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Love of the game drives WC graduate to study soccer management in England.

Although he didn’t realize it at the time, Grant Batterson (WC ‘18) got some life-changing advice from his Westerville Amateur Soccer Association coach when he was just ten years old.

“The coach said to us, ‘Watch as many soccer matches as you can,’” Batterson said. “I didn’t think it was life-changing at the time, but I did take it seriously.”

Since that day, Batterson has devoted most of his free time to studying the “beautiful game.” He wouldn’t say his life revolves around soccer, but he estimates 35-40 percent of his waking hours is dedicated to watching matches and studying formations, pitches, strategies, and tactics.

This fall, the Indiana Wesleyan University graduate will continue his education at Sheffield Hallam University in England, the country that is the birthplace of soccer.

Graduate school is the next logical step for Batterson. His first job was refereeing youth games on Saturday mornings; he played for Worthington Christian, served as an IWU men’s soccer team manager from 2019-22, and interned for the United Soccer League in 2020.

“I have the mindset that there are always people out there who know more about soccer than I do,” Batterson said. “Soccer has an ever-changing landscape. If you don’t stay up to date, you’re going to get left behind.”

Batterson admits he was not a natural-born soccer player. He can remember one of his teammates on the Under 6 squad telling him, “You’re the worst player on this team.”

“And he may not have been wrong,” Batterson said, chuckling at the memory.

Batterson kept playing.

Batterson earned the dubious nickname “Wheels” in high school for his lack of speed. Warriors coach Dan Roads said what Batterson didn’t have in quickness; he made up for in heart.

“When I tell others about the bonds a team can create between players within a high school program, I immediately reference Wheels,” Roads said. “Wheels is one of the most dedicated and supportive players to WC soccer I have had.”

Roads remembers thinking Batterson might play on the JV team for three years. If he were lucky, maybe he would make the varsity roster for the postseason.

“I was wrong,” Roads said. “Grant believed in a journey of growth and improvement that was found in the daily grind and attention to detail. Grant knew his role and pursued his craft, knowing that one day he might get the chance to prove (himself).”

After high school, Batterson spent a year at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., a college that doesn’t offer men’s soccer as a sport. He transferred to IWU a semester before the pandemic hit and became involved with the men’s soccer program as a team manager.

Batterson’s duties ran the gamut from laundering team uniforms and preparing the fields for practices and games to giving recruits a tour of the campus, managing the team’s social media pages, and planning the logistics for road games.

One of the great parts of Batterson’s job was working with international players. During his time with the team, the Marion, Ind. school attracted players from five different continents, including students from Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, Haiti, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana, England, Austria, and Japan.

Somehow the cacophony of different languages and accents in the locker room brought the team together.

“Every team has their cliques, but everyone on this team genuinely liked each other,” Batterson said. “At IWU, I learned about locker room dynamics and how a team comes together.

“You need to be aware of your surroundings. A lot of stuff can happen that coach may not be aware of that could be detrimental to the team.”

While IWU prepared Batterson for the locker room side of soccer, his USL internship prepared him for the business side. He spent his summer researching ticket revenues and corporate partnerships for teams under the USL umbrella and then organizing the data dealing with the league’s expansion.

Batterson recalled a Zoom meeting with a lower-division team that made him realize the importance of striving for excellence.

“A smaller market team said their goal was to run their team like Louisville, a successful second-tier club,” Batterson said. “One of my bosses said, ‘Why are you limiting yourself to that? Shouldn’t you want to run your team like the Seattle Sounders (of the MLS) or Manchester United (of the Premier League)?’

“That always stayed with me. Why would I want to settle?  England has greater opportunities to learn from the best and work for the best. I need to go outside my comfort zone.”

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