Soccer players mourn coach's death
He was a friend, a father figure, an adviser to the players on the USASA Cosmos, a premier soccer program with girls and boys teams. The girls recently attended a baby shower for Forrester's wife, Trisha, who is expecting her first child in July.
Players were looking forward to visiting Forrester's native South Africa later this month to participate in a soccer tournament. He often talked about how beautiful his country was and was excited to show his teams, made up of middle- and high-schoolers.
Everything changed at a June 8 practice for the girls team. Forrester, who never missed a practice, said he wasn't feeling well, citing lower back pain. He was planning to go to the doctor the following day.
But Forrester didn't make it. He collapsed and died of a heart attack at age 49 on June 9.--photo1L--
Forrester's players aren't worried about missing the South Africa trip. They're worried about missing their coach.
"It's a shock for them," said Jenny Hilario, whose daughter, Shelby, 15, has been a member of the USASA Cosmos for two years. "The girls and the boys have all gotten together to lean on each other, staying at each other's homes. No one wanted to be alone over the past few days. It's like, he's there at practice, and then he's not."
The girls team held its first practice since Forrester's death Tuesday.
"It's going to be hard when we go out there today," said Jamie Knapp, 15, who has been a member of the team for four years.
Jess Pullara, 15, a team member for 3� years, agreed.
"We'll probably just sit and talk for a while," Pullara said.
Forrester came to the U.S. from his native Johannesburg six years ago as coach for an under-12 South African team that was participating in a soccer camp based in Farmington. When the camp was over, Forrester learned that an area premier boys soccer team was looking for a coach, so he took on the responsibility, living first in New Milford and then Sherman.
The regional team included players from New Milford, New Fairfield, Sherman and the Shepaug area.
Forrester decided he wanted to stay in the U.S. and took a job five years ago as the varsity boys soccer coach at New Fairfield High School. A year after getting the USASA boys soccer team together, he began a girls team.
The two teams had been planning to go to South Africa last year, but unease about the war in Iraq postponed the trip. The teams were scheduled to take the 18-hour flight to their coach's country on June 28.
"Replacing him will be the hardest thing," Jenny Hilario said. "The girls are very torn about having another coach."
The teams are still gearing up for summer soccer camp, which will prepare them for high school. Trisha Forrester plans to take over the camps in August. Team management is looking at what it will have to do to get a new coach. Tryouts for spring 2005 were expected to take place at the end of July. Forrester's sons Shane, 24, and Ryan, 21, are planning to take on some of the coaching responsibilities.
Picking a new coach isn't at the forefront of the teams' minds, though.
"He would get out there and play with us," Jamie Knapp said. "He wasn't all business."
Joann Knapp, Jamie's mother, said a parent once asked if it bothered her that Forrester yelled at her daughter during games and practices.
"I asked my daughter if it bothered her, and she said, 'When he stops yelling, that means he doesn't care,'�" Joann Knapp said. "These girls have played other sports, but they had never had a relationship with a coach the way they did with Miles. He was tough but he was sensitive."
Jamie Knapp said she is used to looking over at the bench to gauge the coach's reaction during games. It will be strange not having him there, but her mother said instead of looking over at the bench, she'll have to look to the sky now.
Shelby Hilario remembers the nicknames Forrester gave players.
"He would call me 'Thug,'�" she said, recalling that she actually liked attending practices. "And he would call Jamie 'Mighty Mouse.' His jokes were the ones that made life easy."
The Cosmos will have their final game of the year Sunday. There will be two co-ed teams made up of players Forrester coached over the past few months. They've decided to dedicate the game to Forrester. Players will take the field at Schaghticoke Middle School at 1 p.m.
"Sunday will be happy, but sad," said Jenny Hilario. "I just hope they go out there and realize they're playing for him. Win or lose, they should just play their best."
A fund has been set up for Miles and Trisha Forrester's soon-to-be-born baby. Submit donations to Baby Forrester Fund c/o Savings Bank of Danbury, Attn: Carol, 12 Hayestown Ave., Danbury CT 06841.
Contact Kamilla Gary
or at (860) 354-2274.