LILBURN — While neither John Spracklin nor Jonny Williamson have been physically present at Providence Christian Academy for several years, both have had a presence within the school’s varsity soccer program that looms large to this day.
That presence only grew and took on an even more prominent and permanent status when the school’s playing field was renamed in honor of both former coaches Friday.
The field’s new name, Spracklin-Williamson Memorial Field, was unveiled during a special ceremony between the Storm’s boys and girls doubleheader with Towns County that featured reflections from family members and former players of both men who passed away at young ages in recent years — Spracklin from a heart infection in 2006 and Williamson after a battle with cancer in 2010.
“It is ironic that two men so humble, so unpretentious and so unassuming have a field named after them,” Dr. Sean Chapman, Providence’s associate head of school told the crowd of several hundred that included current Providence players, coaches and parents, as well as alumni, present at the ceremony. “(Williamson’s brother) Steve and (Spracklin’s widow) Jenny (Lang) said it well. They pointed to Christ. And as you see their names from here on out on that sign, I hope what it does is helps us remember what they were about and who they loved, and may it draw us all closer to the Lord.
“So, I’m grateful for these guys. They were friends of mine, and this is just a very bittersweet time for me personally, but I’m grateful that we could do this (Friday) and celebrate with so many people. And it’s so neat to see so many different faces from over the years here.”
Among those faces from the past were a combined 22 players from each coach’s most memorable teams, including Sarah Steinmann-Meadows and Jordan Gotfredson, who each remembered the impact each had on the Providence girls program.
Spracklin was the first coach to guide a Providence team to a state championship, leading the team then known was the Stars to the 1999 Class AA/A state title. He amassed a 71-33-2 record, good for a .638 winning percentage, during his tenure.
Williamson, meanwhile, picked up where Spracklin left off, leading Providence to an 80-29-5 record, the highest ever winning percentage for a coach in school history, including the 2007 Class AA/A state title.
But more importantly, they both remembered the impact each coach had on them away from the game.
“To see his name over there is absolutely amazing,” said Gotfredson, a 2008 Providence graduate who played for Williamson during the 2007 state title season before going on to play in college at Samford University. “He was the best man, the best coach and the best friend I ever had. I really am the person I am today because of him and his influence.
“I think the most I took away from (playing for) him was that it wasn’t about soccer. It was about so much more, and it was about our relationship with God and our relationship with each other. He didn’t care about state championships. Well, he cared about it, but he cared about us more as a person.”
Steinmann-Meadows, who starred for the 1999 championship team before going on to a college career at Auburn, expressed similar sentiments about Spracklin, and the impact he had on her life. The former coach left Providence to pursue missionary work.
“It is hard to put it into words,” she said. “It’s a testimony to the impact that he left. He truly had a vision for his calling and his team. It’s just neat to see how he has truly impacted and influenced all of our lives.”