When you ask most soccer players why they started playing the sport as a kid, usually the answer points to their love of the game. For Atlanta Silverbacks midfielder Tony McManus, his early soccer career started for a very different reason.
“My dad was a college football player who experienced a pretty awful injury to his collarbone, so he wanted my siblings and I to play a sport that was less dangerous than football,” McManus said. “Soccer happened to be the up-and-coming youth sport at the time and certainly less dangerous than football, so it ended up being my sport.”
It’s difficult to predict where McManus would be today if it weren’t for his father’s unfortunate injury, but if you fast-forward to 2012, his career path seems to have worked out. McManus is now a veteran of 10 years of professional soccer, and if you ask him how he made it so far, he will give a lot of the credit to his father.
“My dad didn’t grow up playing soccer and he really only picked it up after us kids started playing, but he has always been and still is a student of the game,” said the 5-foot-9 midfielder. “He has read so many articles and books, and has watched so many games over the years that he has always been able to help me improve my game.”
McManus isn’t built like your average soccer player and he’s never made a living by doing anything flashy or fancy on the field, but his cerebral approach to the game and his relentless defensive presence make him a tough player to play against. He credits his father for helping him realize that there is a mental side to the game of soccer; a side that if mastered, it can help you overcome a lot.
The Memphis, Tenn. native is also well-known around the league for his commitment to hard work and being a good teammate, which is yet another example of something his father ingrained in his mind at a young age. “My dad helped me set goals early in my career, and showed me how to achieve them,” McManus said. “When I would reach a goal, he would never let me plateau because he would always have me set something higher to achieve the next time.”
As one of the veterans on the Silverbacks team, it isn’t hard to see the qualities his father passed on to him. McManus is easily the most vocal player on the field, and is meticulous in the orders he gives to his teammates, making sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be at all times.
With an impressive career under his belt, McManus knows the ins and outs of what it takes to be a winner and a consummate professional, which all goes back to the values his father taught him so early on his life. At this point, McManus says his father is just a fan – well, actually his biggest fan.
“He has been my number one supporter from day one, filming me as I walked across the stage at the MLS SuperDraft,” McManus said. “He has been with me for the high points and been with me for the low points, but his support has never changed.”