On my facebook status the other day I quoted I Cor. 14:20 from the bible—“For the Kingdom of God does not consist in words, but in power.” I believe that. It’s not just about talk, but also about the power of God. I learned early on that God is calling me to be someonewho allows God to work through me. I decided I wouldn’t just talk about my dreams, but I would take action and give life to them. When I was thirteen and trying to win a spot on an ODP team, a coach pulled me aside and said “Son, what you have is work ethic. If you keep working like you are, good things are going to happen for you down the road.” I took that to heart. From then on I combined my speech, discipline, and God’s power to accomplish whatever is in my path. My dad’s boss, Gary, said “ Visions without resources are just dreams.” So began my journey in soccer where I would show up, work hard and latch on to people, organizations and opportunities that would move me toward my destiny.
My heritage impacts who I am and I understand my family is vital to my identity. My brothers and I are also aware that we have quite the gene pool. My grandfather and great grandfather played D-I football and both were captains at Auburn University. My aunt is in a Tennis Hall of Fame and I have a few cousins who played college tennis as well. As I write this, my brother, Dawson Zimmerman, is finishing his punting career at Clemson University. My other brother, Carter, is also an athlete and could have chosen a collegiate sports career if he would have wanted. My mom and dad were also athletic, so they say, back in the day. Not surprisingly, our family environment was and is COMPETITIVE and fun. For example, every night in our house we rolled the dice to see who would have to do total cleanup in the kitchen. Losing at “around the world” on our basketball court could have similar consequences. No doubt I became scrappier and more determined as the youngest of three boys…and well, of nine boys on my street. My goal was to never be chosen last when teams were picked. My brother Carter after a game of darts always laughingly comments that I am the most “clutch kid” he has ever met and that I “will the darts to hit the bullseye.”
There came a time when I made the discovery that I could add something more to sports than simply working hard. I could care about the players around me and I could lead them. I think that caring came from my culture of family and church. My parents are missionaries and my home was often a hospitable place for broken people. Ministry happened in my home… prayers, songs, bible studies… the whole deal. Through my church I got to mentor Bosnian refugees, serve in a homeless shelter and do flood-relief work for Hurricane Katrina victims. For me, caring means loving people and being fully present to their lives, as Jesus would. I try, though I mess up, to care for my teammates. I have been on teams where players walk with, value and strengthen each other and it results in team chemistry.
Early on I didn’t know what sports arena I would end up making an impact in. I just knew that I was destined to play something. I have been to the World Series in baseball and have played in countless basketball championships, but though I was good at a lot of things, I have always had a passion for soccer. I began at Gwinnett Soccer Association in Ga. at U-6. By U-8 the director of coaching at my club said, “Walker, you are an athlete playing soccer. What you want to become is a soccer player who is an athlete.” After years of juggling and wall ball, I was ten, and that same DOC said, “Parents are complaining, some of their kids are crying…you are too intense for recreational soccer.” After that day, I became a play up on a travel team for GSA under Campbell Chapman. Unlike a lot of players, I stayed at the same club for my entire soccer journey. I am a loyalist and besides that I really couldn’t beat the training I was getting. Nuno Ptiera was a great coach and a caring man. Many of my teammates were lifelong friends as well.
We didn’t have Academy back then so I tried out for ODP (Olympic Development Program) and made it. Next, I went to ODP camp and made the nightly pool games where national and regional scouts were watching. On the final night all five hundred or so of us were in an auditorium watching pictures of soccer stars flash across a giant screen who, the leaders said “have once been sitting where you are sitting”. As I watched the screen something inside of me said, “You will be one of those players”. That night I found out that I was selected to the Region Team that would go on to Boston to a USSF U-14 identification camp. At that camp, I was identified and went on to play for the U-14 National Team. I have since been resourced by outstanding National Coaches like Manny Schellscheidt, Mike Matkovich and Caleb Porter. My Furman University coach, Doug Allison is mentoring me and believing in me and giving me opportunity as well. The rest of the story is in my profile in this website — my ongoing soccer destiny. In closing, I would like to post a poem that my Mom wrote me early on in my career that encapulates my love for the game:
My Sweet Soccer Home
Longing stirs from the depths of me —
a rising wave no one can see.
Desire crashes on the shore of God’s unfolding plan
I strap on my shin guards and believe that I can.
Some sit at desks and crunch numbers with pencils.
Others splash colors on walls using stencils.
Then there are those who thrill at the chance
to dissect a frog or cross stages with dance.
Light bulb ideas thrill inventing minds.
Archaeologists dig deep for treasures one-of-a-kind.
But all these things drain life out of me—
It’s the game of soccer that sets me free.
God weaves us each separate in our own mother’s wombs
and we emerge unique from these dark sacred rooms.
When I strap on shin guards and lace cleats on my feet
I feel a rush of adrenaline and my heart skips a beat.
When I juggle a ball…keep it suspended in air
and race down the field wind combing my hair—
My Creator calls my name and I’m precious in His sight.
With each strike on goal this gift from Him takes flight.
Not for power or honor or tempting glory for myself
I’m simply saying “yes” to gifts God never meant for me to shelf.
Spinning, megging, Maradona, sliding out of bounds—
coaches screaming, whistles blowing, “I love the soccer sounds.”
A giant, green chess game played with magic feet—
uniforms that dance right through the rain, the snow, the heat.
Clashing bodies, leaning, pushing, fighting and with each pass
a teammate picks up the soccer brush and weaves art on a canvas of grass.
Threading balls, strategic minds and a vision to change the field…
cut back, cross over, break away, head it, the goal is sealed.
In sync with the ball and God’s plan for me, I choose to no longer roam
for I am alive when I take the field and shine in my sweet soccer home.