By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Dave Laraba always wanted to be a teacher, and a trumpet player on the side.
He didn’t play soccer.
Thirty years later, he’s considered one of West Virginia’s most influential people in what’s known worldwide as The Beautiful Game.
“I was in the band. I took a liking to the sport,” Laraba said, fresh off his recent induction into the U.S. Youth Soccer Region I Hall of Fame in Baltimore.
Despite his late start with soccer, Laraba has done a little of everything with the sport. He’s not only coached it, but he’s been one of the top administrators in the country.
He started in 1982 as the president of the Beckley-Raleigh County YMCA’s Soccer Association, and by 1988 was president of the W.Va. Soccer Association.
Laraba is currently the executive director of the WVSA, and a member of the U.S. Soccer Federation Appeals Committee and the U.S. Youth Soccer Leadership Development Committee.
“I got involved because my son Steve wanted to play,” Laraba said. “(Woodrow Wilson assistant coach) Dave Harrah and I started helping with our kids’ team. We checked out all the books in the library — all two of them — and got a reel-to-reel film with Pele from the 70s.
“We didn’t know the rules, but we worked on it, and we coached together.”
Laraba began with the State Youth Soccer Association as a volunteer and worked his way up to the executive vice-president.
“When the youth and adult associations merged into the WVSA, I got shanghaied to be the president,” he said. “It went from there.”
It’s been a rewarding experience, from coaching at Park Middle School to helping promote soccer throughout the state.
“Because of regional and national involvement, I’ve seen a lot of national games, and I got to go to the World Cup and the Olympics — things I wouldn’t have gotten to do,” Laraba said.
“My whole family has gotten involved. We even have a dog named for Brandi Chastain (famed U.S. women’s star).”
Laraba and the late Al Sinclair, a longtime administrator with New Jersey Youth Soccer, were inducted into the Region I Hall of Fame Oct. 13 in a ceremony at the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards.
“I’ve been associated with Region I for 25 years. A lot of people who have been mentors to me were in the first class of the Hall of Fame,” Laraba said. “Last year a couple of friends got in, and this is the third class.
“To get into it this early, and not having been a regional officer, is pretty neat.
“To go in with Al was an honor. I wish he could have been there. We had a lot in common.”
The induction was a humbling moment as well.
“Johnny Carson once had Dean Martin, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. on his show. George Gobel was the last guest, and he said it was like ‘putting brown shoes on with a tuxedo,’” Laraba said.
“I felt like that. I was thinking, ‘What am I doing here?’
“The honors I’ve got have been on the backs of good people. They’re doing the stuff and I get the recognition.”
n n n
Laraba is co-chairman of the local state tournament committee, which is bringing the event to Beckley for the ninth consecutive year.
The tournament is set for Friday and Saturday at the YMCA Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex.
Class AAA girls and boys games are at Paul Cline Stadium, while the Class AA-A games are at Carter Family Foundation Field.
Weather permitting, of course.
Hurricane Sandy is expected to bring a great deal of snow, and possible power outages could put a halt on things.
“We’re still on, as of right now,” Laraba said early Monday evening. “A lot will depend on what happens the next 24 hours. The SSAC will make the call.
“They have some contingency plans if we get a lot of weather and the power is out.”
— E-mail: dstillwell@