Billy Gazonas holds up the 1977 NCAA national championship trophy. (Photo courtesy of Billy Gazonas)
Note: EDP Soccer submitted this book review on Bill Gazonas, former Hartwick College standout and a player in the original North American Soccer League
A New Jersey native has written a book that every youth soccer player – like those who participate in EDP leagues – must read.
The book, titled “That Little Son of a B**ch!”, is about and written by Billy Gazonas, 1977 winner of the Hermann Trophy, emblematic of the nation’s top college soccer player. It’s an incredibly inspiring story that shows youth players that if they are really motivated and ignore those that say they are not good enough, their dreams can become true.
Gazonas – at 5-3, 132 lb. – played high school soccer in Trenton, N.J.. He yearned to play in the 1970s for perennial Division I soccer powerhouse Hartwick College in upstate New York. But Hartwick head coach Timo Liekoski, considered by many to be the brightest mind in college soccer then, told Gazonas he was not good enough to play at Hartwick and should go elsewhere.
But according to the book, Liekowski could not measure Gazonas’ indomitable will to succeed. Gazonas enrolled at Hartwick and barely managed to survive two brutal weeks of preseason practice. That was followed by the first regular-season game against Montclair State University, with his parents in attendance. Gazonas was the only Hartwick player not to get into that game. Upset, he refused to be defeated. Instead, he devoted himself to endless hours of secret training to master the ball and to try to earn more playing time with the varsity.
The book reveals in detail how Gazonas’ remarkable story culminated with the last game of his senior year, when he captained Hartwick to the 1977 NCAA Championship (2-1 over the San Francisco in the final). Hartwick went undefeated that season at 16-0-2.
In an interview with EDP, Gazonas said he believed the youth players like those in that organization can benefit on many levels by reading this book.
“First, it is a prime example that at any age in your development as a soccer player, you can make huge strides in your technical development, with the end goal being the master of the ball,” he said. “And with today’s social distancing, the ability for a player to train on his own or with another player or two is more important than ever.
“It’s developing a mindset that every day you want to get hundreds, if not a thousand, touches on the ball to make those incremental improvements to your individual technical skills.”
Gazonas said his book was written with his grandchildren in mind. “Although they are still very young, I want them to understand the value of hard work, focus and discipline,” he said. “These are attributes which I believe are so important in this very competitive global environment we now live in.”
Gazonas said that one aspect of the book he believes will help any player is about how they can train themselves to better use their eyes during games and training.
“It’s developing your vision and making it a habit to constantly be asking yourself that million-dollar question: ‘What am I going to do with the ball’ well before I receive it?” he said. “I truly believe that speed of thought is as important as one’s ability to run with great speed. The habit of constantly looking around begins with training until it is so habit-forming, your head serves as a swivel the minute you step on the soccer pitch.”
Gazonas said his book was meant to inspire and motivate players to reach for the stars.
“As a youth player, set your goals very high,” he said. “And believe in yourself, even when your coach may believe that you are too small, or too slow, or just not good enough. Because someone tells you that you are not good enough does not make that individual correct, no matter who they are.”
The book is available on Amazon.