Canton Middle honors soccer coach of more than two decades

Apr. 24—On Monday night, Canton Middle School girls soccer hosted Hendersonville. While the 4-0 loss on the field was not the result the team was looking for, the night will still be a memorable one for all involved.

The Lady Bears still have a make-up game to play, but Monday's match was originally scheduled to be the regular season finale for Canton. Thus, the game was used as an opportunity to recognize the man who has led the soccer program in Canton for more than two decades.

Twenty-one years ago, Ricky Warren went from A.C. Reynolds Middle School to Canton Middle after 10 years with the Rockets.

Before Monday's game, Warren was recognized by current and former players, as well as parents and community members whose lives he had touched.

"I've been doing what the Lord called me to do for 31 years. I don't have the words to thank you guys enough," Warren said. "From the bottom of my heart, I thank you guys for coming out."

Several showed up to honor the coach who has dedicated 21 years to the athletes in Canton.

"The impact that I've had is pretty special," Warren said.

The ceremony was a surprise to Warren, who had been kept out of the loop of the plans.

"I had no idea this was happening or I would've been sick today," Warren joked. "I wasn't expecting any of this, but I appreciate everyone that came out and showed their support."

Former players shared the impacts the coach had on their lives. They told stories about Warren doing handstands on the sideline and his compassion for everyone around him.

Pisgah junior Kenna Lawing spoke about how Warren had driven her athletically.

"You pushed me, encouraged me and motivated me to be the best I could be," Lawing said.

Pisgah senior Evan Byrd said that Warren's influence stretched out beyond the soccer field.

"You wanted to do more than teach us how to play soccer," Byrd said. "You wanted to teach us how to be young men. You were an example for us. Whenever we won, you made sure we showed respect and when we lost, you made sure we kept our heads up."

While there were plenty of smiles and hugs, there were plenty of tears as well. Some of those tears came when Warren spoke of his good friend and colleague Steve Ledford, who passed away in September 2021.

Ledford and Warren had started together at Reynolds and moved to Canton together.

"It's a little bittersweet too," Warren said. "Coach Ledford and I started this journey 29 years ago and we were supposed to finish it together, but the Lord called him home."

Warren also thanked his parents and his brother for their influence on his life, as well as his wife, who he said was often having to take on additional responsibility because of his role as a coach.

Although the Lady Bears couldn't come out on top Monday evening, Canton still has one regular season game to makeup and the conference tournament. Warren is hoping the Lady Bears can get back on their home field at least one more time.

"Hopefully, if everything works out, our first round of the conference tournament should be at home," Warren said.