For Will Mims, there was pretty much only ever soccer. He began playing at his local YMCA in Texas in the first or second grade, and as he grew older and better, the sport became part of his identity.
He was an average student in high school. He enjoyed learning, but he was generally unenthusiastic about school. That changed when he went to college.
“I really saw how my effort in college and the positive habits I established would be a catalyst for my career and the rest of my life,” he said.
Will attended Dodge City Community College in Kansas and played soccer there. His invitation to join Phi Theta Kappa came, and he viewed it as a good opportunity to enhance his resume.
Though he joined with no expectations, he went on to become president of his chapter.
“The initial membership fee I paid to join was returned exponentially throughout my college experience, both financially and through the tremendous experience Phi Theta Kappa offered,” he said. “It felt great being recognized for my academic accomplishments. I learned that it is awesome to be good at school and great to love learning in general.”
Will was named a 2014 Coca-Cola New Century Scholar and traveled to Washington, D.C. to be recognized at the American Association of Community Colleges’ annual convention. He also attended PTK’s annual convention in Orlando, Florida, that year.
“I met a lot of good, hard-working, similar-minded students, some of whom had truly amazing stories,” he said.
Will transferred to Adams State University in Colorado, where he continued to play soccer while majoring in psychology with a clinical emphasis. He had trials with some professional teams but ultimately returned home to Texas.
He began volunteering at his church with Good Sports International and World Relief, two non-profit organizations, to play soccer and coach mostly refugee children living in an apartment community in Fort Worth. Many of these children live in extreme poverty — some don’t know where their next meal will come from, and most of them have holes in their shirts.
Will has long been inspired by the one-for-one business model TOMS shoes follows; so, he launched Legend Gear. For every shirt bought, another is donated to charity. The focus now is on athletic shirts aimed at soccer players, but the goal is to create a lifestyle line for everyone.
“And the kids at the Ladera Apartments will be the first recipients,” he said.
Although Legend Gear is still in its early stages, Will is also working on a need- and merit-based scholarship fund called Legend Scholars to help cover college expenses for his young players. And, he said he has a few other businesses that will launch in 2019.
Will also still hopes to play professionally some day and counts a few former pros among his mentors. Jared Montz, a former player for the Chicago Fire, founded the popular “Online Soccer Academy” on YouTube and has a clothing company as well.
“He was someone who had achieved goals I wanted to achieve and gave me great advice for a positive future,” Will said. “As a first-generation college student, that meant a lot to me.”
Another mentor is former Major League Soccer player and Olympian Patrick “Pat” Ianni, who has started a training company that works to create a healthier emotional platform in youth soccer for players, parents, and coaches. He has given Will great advice that has helped him let go of some emotional baggage he has carried from his past.
As a lifelong soccer player, Will has learned to follow his passion and intuition and to do what you love. He has also seen both on and off the field how imagination can stretch your skillset — that, to set out to build a wonderful future, it helps to use your imagination.
While he’s often still found kicking a soccer ball, Will has learned that soccer isn’t everything. But, he doubts his passion for the sport will ever go away, and that’s okay.
“It’s about what you do with that passion — hopefully to help others — that is important,” he said.