“Life is a beautiful struggle, soccer is the beautiful game, every person has a story and I’m here to share the stories you may not know of Soccer in America.”
Clayton Adams had a unique high school experience that only afforded him to opportunity to play one year of organized soccer. The rest of his time was spent by himself from 11am to 11pm on the soccer fields; just him and a ball. It never bothered him because that is all he really knew.
He made some friends and eventually got into club soccer in Warner Robins, GA where he learned a lot about the game and played three years of club soccer. Soon after, he moved to the Georgia Revolution Super – Y which was a higher development team in the Atlanta area. After a very unsuccessful season he tried out with some college teams to attempt to catch up with his peers. While he had some good impressions none of the teams took real interest because of his GED situation which made it difficult to take into the program.
After some rough patches in his home life, he moved out at 17 and started washing dishes at a local Outback Steakhouse. He was still playing soccer in the area but it was limited to coed adult leagues and pick-up futsal games on tennis courts. He lost track of himself in this time and stopped focusing on his main goal which was to play the game professionally.
At the age of 19, following more trying times in his life, he moved to Clemson, South Carolina with his mother who became very sick and spent the next few years on and off in the hospital/ICU. Clayton worked a couple jobs in the area, he coached a u-12 team and worked at a tree service to make a little money but never stopped playing soccer. During all of this he played wherever he could. He played in Sunday leagues, Monday leagues, Wednesday leagues, you name it, if they would let him kick a ball he was there.
While the medical issues with his mom got worse he started to focus on things to cope with the stress which turned him to alcohol. For the better part of a year he was drinking heavily every day. While in this slump he tried out for the Charleston Battery and was devastated to not make it.
After that tryout it finally clicked, he knew what he needed to do. He stopped drinking, stopped eating terribly and started taking care of himself like the professional he wanted to be. He got back to a training schedule that reflected what he wanted to do. His game on the field started to show improvements with the changes he made off the field.
During the process of reinventing himself he met his now fiancé, Savannah. After some time together she convinced him to move forward with his life and move out of his apartment with his mom, brother and her boyfriend.
He moved back to Georgia to start his new life. Savannah made sure he never hurt himself or pushed himself too far with his training because he felt the only way to “catch up” was to outwork everyone around him. In order to do that he had to find a proper team. Sunday leagues, coed adult leagues and individual training was not going to cut it. He was on the phone one day and saw an ad on Facebook that mentioned tryouts for a semi pro team called the Georgia Revolution. He had no idea if he would be successful in the tryouts so he told Savannah, if he did not make the team, he would focus on finding another career.
Before the tryout, just to be safe, he applied at GEICO. He completed the entire interview process, including job shadowing. He was offered the job but he turned it down. He had a feeling the Georgia Revolution tryout would work out for him. This was his big chance to show everyone what he could do. A little boy from nothing was going to play semi pro soccer in Atlanta and he did just that! He went to the tryout and was asked to join the program 45 minutes into the session. Afterwards, he told everyone he could because he was so proud that he could tell people, he accomplished what he set out to do.
The NPSL season arrived and he was ready to go but it did not go as planned. Game after game he was left out of the lineup. He slowly got more and more discouraged and eventually did not even want to show up to practice. He did not want to show his face in his hometown because he was afraid people were ashamed of him for not living up to their expectations. However, during this slump, he never once stopped trying. Every single practice he gave everything. He drove 1.5 hours every single day to get to practice an hour early and wouldn’t get home until midnight. He would have to go to work for a tree service the next morning at 7am. He worked hard every single day to earn minutes and the minutes never came. He thought at times that he was not good enough because that would sit easier on his mind. He came up with the idea to work even harder. He went from training once a day to training 2-3 times every single day, knowing it would eventually pay off and it did! He played every game for the Georgia Revolution reserves.
He always thought if he could outwork everyone around him, he could not possibly be ignored. One day his coach, Scott Redding, asked him if he wanted to play in a scrimmage against the U.S. Virgin Islands National Team. Without hesitation he said yes! He was told he would only get minimal playing time because other players were meant to be scouted and he was not on the radar. He happily accepted to play anyway. He made the three hour drive to Rome, Georgia to play his 30 minutes in a scrimmage.
Afterwards, the coach walked up to him and asked if he wanted to stay and train with them for the next four days. He called Savannah to make sure it was okay because she was pregnant with their son, Rowan Clay Adams. She was excited and supported him staying for the next four days to train in a professional environment for this amazing experience. After the stay, he was informed Coach Marcelo was interested in bringing him to his USL team (At the time he had no idea where it was or anything else).
He took Coach Marcelo’s information and went back to Warner Robins with his experiences and continued to train. He tried messaging and contacting Coach Marcelo’s assistant but after about three months he received a message saying he was no longer affiliated with the club and best of luck with his process. He thought for sure he had hit another road block and would go through another dry spell. Nonetheless, he never let it discourage him because he continued to focus on his training. After about four more months, he received an email about an open tryout in Atlanta for Atlanta United 2. Again he had something to look forward to!
His training became more intense and he made sure he was ready. He went into the tryout with confidence even though there were over 200 people at the tryout. The tryout went very well but did not work out in his favor and he took the rejection very hard. He went to the gym a couple nights a week. He just talked to himself because he knew the people around him were getting tired of hearing about his wild dreams of coming from nothing to playing a professional sport.
Then he got an email about another open tryout in Bettendorf, Iowa. This time the tryout was for the Austin Bold FC, who he had avidly been following on every social media platform! The tryout was in two weeks so he had limited time to sort out flights and hotel arrangements. Luckily, Savannah’s father is a pilot and had reward points for a free flight. The person he traveled and tried out with, his former Coach Scott Redding, had reward points which covered a hotel room for them. He continued to train until the day before the tryout. During both days of the tryouts, he felt he played the best soccer he’d ever played. Knowing he did well he was still very nervous about Coach Marcelo’s evaluation.
He called Marcelo three days after the tryout and was informed he would be brought to preseason and he couldn’t believe it! He was invited to a trial for a professional soccer team! He continued to train as the days flew by. He was told he needed to speak with the GM of Austin Bold, Roberto Silva. Of course he was nervous about this. Then he called and gave him the news he still thinks about today, he told him the club wanted to go ahead and sign him! He was going to live his dream and play professional soccer!
Adams is in his first season in Austin and his dream has become a reality. It really happened! His countless passes against a wall, hours upon hours spent by himself, the times he had to use flashlights to play at night because he wasn’t finished with his training. All the times he was laughed at, all the times people looked at him crazy when he told them he would play professional soccer. All the times his own family told him it would never happen. It was all worth it! Hard work and determination trumps all.
He believed in himself every bit of the way. Even if he couldn’t say it out loud he knew deep down that he would make something of himself and be something his children could look up to. He wants to be the person who inspires young players who might share an experience similar to his. He wants them to know they can do it to even if they don’t have access to the soccer academy or expensive teams that heavily influence American soccer.