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Former Poplarville soccer athlete took a break to improve his game

Bradley Stines hasn’t had a typical athletic career, but he nevertheless found a home on the Pearl River Community College soccer team.

The Wildcats’ midfielder started playing the game with youth organizations in Poplarville.

Soccer’s intriguing aspects kept his interest, but the lack of club soccer was a hindrance as Stines looked to improve as a player.

Stines said he took a break during his early teen years before once again playing soccer when he tried out for the middle school team in seventh grade.

From then on it’s been non-stop for Stines as he’s continued to work his way through the ranks.

A big part of his growth as a player was the decision to join teammate Tres Ray on a club team in Hattiesburg.

“We had to go play in Hattiesburg because they have a great program up there. They helped us get the attention of college coaches and eventually helped us play at Pearl River,” Stines said.

Soccer is a growing sport in the United States, but it still doesn’t have the popularity of other more established sports like basketball, baseball or football.

The lack of infrastructure regarding youth play is a problem around the country, but Stines said soccer’s standing amongst other sports wasn’t a deterrent in pursuing his dreams.

“We really wouldn’t have that many fans compared to football games (at Poplarville), but it didn’t have any affect on me wanting to play. It was fun, (Head Coach Luke) Gipson is great and he made me into the person I am today,” Stines said.

Stines started playing for the varsity squad pretty early when the midfielder was called up during his eighth grade year.

The progression continued his freshman year and by sophomore year Stines was a starter for the Poplarville Hornets soccer team.

It was during those early varsity years the realization set in that college soccer was a possibility.

“It was the end of ninth grade and I started getting a lot better. I was competing with older kids and thought I maybe had a chance and the potential to play in college,” Stines said.

Athletes can possibly waste their potential if they don’t put the necessary work in to maintain their level of skill, but that wasn’t an issue for Stines.

He’d spend time outside of the team’s training sessions perfecting each aspect of his game.

“Making your basics better will make you so much better and the small things will set you apart from the other players,” Stines said.

PRCC’s team was in the midst of spring training, which would’ve included some games against other NJCAA opponents.

That’s no longer a possibility due to COVID-19 and the cancellation of spring sports, but Stines is trying to keep a positive attitude until he’s able to get back on the pitch with his teammates. “I was really looking forward to spring training and spring games were coming up in April. It was really disappointing for me to not play those games, but hopefully it works out and we get back on the pitch soon,” Stines said.