Monday, October 8, 2012

A story unlike any I've told before

Jim Mueller. Charlotte Observer photo by Robert Lahser.
The chance to write a story like this doesn't come around often for a high school sports writer. I guess I got lucky.

Every year I send out an email to the athletic directors of the schools I cover. It's generic, just asking them to give their coaches my email for story ideas. Many don't respond, but I always end up with a few good ideas. This time, I learned about an incredible story. 

It's about Jim Mueller. He's 43. He is a first year boys' soccer coach at Butler High after moving to Pineville from Chicago this summer. And about six years ago he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease

Mueller and his wife, Michelle, were kind enough to open up to me about their story. I met with them at their apartment, saw Jim lead a practice with his team at Butler and saw him coach several games. The Muellers are an inspiring family. 

There's so much more I wanted to put in this story. It could have gone 5,000 more words, but I'm happy with the finished product. And I'm honored I could tell Jim Mueller's story. 

Jim Mueller writes his plan for Butler High boys’ soccer practices – what he wants to say, detailed descriptions of the drills to run – into a large notebook, which he references throughout practice.

On the sidelines during games, Mueller takes notes in a pocket-sized notebook about everything from how the referees are calling the game to what formation to run.

Mueller, whose Butler team has gone from the bottom of the Southwestern 4A to a No. 15 ranking in the state 4A poll, may be the most organized soccer coach in the area.

That’s because Mueller, 43, has to be. He has early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Diagnosed at 36, he is one of 5.4 million Americans with the disease. Only 4 percent are under age 65.

Read the rest of the story here

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