All good things must come to an end.
For Walton boys soccer that means coach Bucky Boozer, their leader for 26 years, has retired. The Raiders have enjoyed enviable success under their charismatic coach during his tenure, including the icing on the cake: the 2011 Class 5A state championship. A self-described “hippy from Decatur, coaching in conservative East Cobb,” Boozer became one of the most successful coaches in Georgia high school soccer history.
During his lengthy coaching career at Walton, Boozer has bonded with hundreds of players, many of whom still keep in touch. During the playoffs this season, several former players came out to show their support for their former coach. An email chain, which included hundreds of former players, formed and many expressed their affection for Boozer.
Jason Holder (Class of ’96) wrote: “I would also like to thank coach Boozer as I strongly believe he played a major role in making me the adult I am today. He taught me perseverance, he built up my confidence and most of all he challenged me to succeed. These are all characteristics that I thrive on still today.”
Boozer has surely enjoyed the adulation of his players over the years. After all, the legend believes they, not the coaches, are what it is all about.
“The game is for the players,” as he has said to his teams many times over the years. “This is where I feel comfortable – on the field coaching the boys. But it is about them, not me.”
Believe it or not, this soccer sage did not always play the sport. At Druid Hills High School, a young Boozer played football and baseball before trying soccer his senior year. From there, he was hooked.
Boozer then attended Oxford College of Emory before transferring to Appalachian State University. He had the chance to transfer to Emory University, but instead chose to be a Mountaineer.
“My Dad asked me how I could choose App State over Emory,” recalled Boozer. “I said, ‘Because App State has a better soccer team.”
Boozer would eventually settle back in Atlanta, where he would take a position coaching the Paideia School soccer program. There, he won two state titles.
Walton then hired the young star coach and brought him to what was then the young suburb of East Cobb.
Dennis Reardon (Class of ’90) shared his thoughts on playing for the coach in the early days of his tenure.
“He was definitely involved on the sideline, but he was easy to talk to,” said Reardon, who now has veterinary practice in Alpharetta. “He worked us hard, but we definitely had fun playing under him.”
Not only did Boozer develop his players on the field, he was also instrumental in their off-the-field progress.
“Playing for him allowed me to develop a certain level of confidence,” said Reardon.
After the successful run at a top high school program, Boozer will take a year off before deciding what to do next. He has, however, decided he will increase his time spent at the North Atlanta Soccer Association, a major youth league in the metro area.
Despite being retired from Walton, one thing will likely remain a constant in Boozer’s life: coaching soccer.