Patrick never intended to be a coach. In fact, he wasn't planning on becoming a coach until just a month before he became one. Patrick Makles was going to be an Army Officer. “I wanted to serve in the Army since middle school and I was thinking of enlisting right out of high school but a lot of friends and family who had been in the military encouraged me towards the Officer route instead, so I looked into that and applied for an ROTC college scholarship,” Patrick said. He was offered the scholarship and the Army gave him the option of attending the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT or Loyola University in Baltimore, MD. Having grown up in UCONN territory, he wanted to experience a new area and packed his belongings and moved to Maryland to start his college career. Growing up, Patrick was a multi-sport athlete. He participated in lacrosse, soccer and swimming, even serving as a lifeguard each summer through high school. He focused mostly on soccer in high school, but when there were some coaching changes, Patrick left the team and joined the cross country team instead. He tried it on a whim for fun and ended up doing exceptionally well. He made it to the State Opens and even qualified for New England Regionals. Once he got to Loyola, he emailed the cross country coach and asked for a spot on the team - and he got it. Not only was he part of the Army ROTC program for four years, he was running Division-1 cross country as a walk-on.
Patrick’s life was looking pretty good. He was on track to commission on May 20, 2016 - the day before he graduated - to become full-time active duty stationed out of Vicenza, Italy with the 173rd Airborne. However, in late April just weeks before his graduation date, Patrick received heartbreaking news that would alter the course of his life: he was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease.
He submitted medical paperwork and applied for a waiver, but it wasn’t approved. Patrick said, “I got word back two days before commissioning and graduation that I was being medically discharged because of my Crohn’s Disease.” The news was difficult for Patrick. “I was supposed to have this full-time, active duty job for the next four years of my life. I was going to travel, live in Italy and it was something I’d been wanting since middle school and literally in a matter of days, it was just all gone,” he shared. He was devastated and unsure of where to go from there. His childhood dream and the goal he had worked towards for the past eight years through Army ROTC training was taken from him in the blink of an eye.
During his sophomore year at Loyola, Patrick started volunteering at the youth-serving organization Soccer Without Borders. Initially it was in order to receive extra points on the order merit list for ROTC, but as time went on Patrick grew fond of the organization. He became interested in the work, which not only involved soccer but working with international students and families - primarily refugees and immigrant youth. As each year passed, Patrick would increase the number of days he volunteered there - from just one day a week of academic tutoring, then a day of coaching soccer and a day of tutoring - and so forth. By his senior year they offered him an unpaid internship, which he wasn’t required to have but did simply to keep working with the program.
After learning of Patrick’s medical discharge from the military, Soccer Without Borders offered him a full-time coaching opportunity at the organization through its partnership with Up2Us Sports. With three years of volunteer experience at the organization, he was intimately familiar with the programs, staff and students. With his dream of becoming an Army Officer over, he opened his eyes to a new possible future of coaching.
While not his lifelong goal, Patrick is happy he stayed with Soccer Without Borders. He shares, “it’s something that’s been consistent in my life for a few years now. The main thing that was consistent in my life - the Army - is gone, so this is a good thing to keep in my life during this transition period.” In August, Patrick moved to Baltimore and started his full-time position, working at a middle school coaching soccer and academics as well as leading an SAT Prep and college access course for high school students.
Patrick credits ROTC as the biggest influence in his life and he aspires to pass on the values it instilled in him to the kids he is now coaching, who have become his biggest inspiration. The experience - both as a volunteer and now as a full-time coach - has also helped Patrick put things into perspective and move on from the loss of his dream. Patrick shared, “as soon as I was out of the hospital and healthy enough, I went to practice and the kids just inspired me. They all have super positive attitudes despite everything they’ve been through and continue to go through and I think this is the best thing that could have happened. It inspires me to move on and realize that maybe this wasn’t meant to be and I need to go forward in a different direction.”