USC's patriarch and Technical Director, Coach Mike Latty, will be inducted into the Huntsville- Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame on August 24, 2020, along with 10 other 2020 honorees, becoming the 28th class and only the fourth individual ever inducted for the sport of soccer since the HMCAHOF's inception in 1989. First as a player and then as the most successful soccer coach in Alabama over the past four decades, Latty has made a lasting impact on the soccer community not only in Huntsville and Madison County, but the entire Southeast.
Born in Clarendon, Jamaica in 1955, Coach Latty didn't start playing soccer until around the age of 11 when his family moved to Kingston. Pick up games and street soccer with friends were the only options for younger children. As his skill level progressed, he joined a U16 competitive team and in 1974, only three years later, was selected for the Jamaican U19 National Team. One of Coach Latty's favorite memories from this time was having an article written about him by a giant of Jamaican sports journalism, Tony Becca.
At 19, he was recruited to play soccer at Federal City College, now the University of the District of Columbia. When his coach, Dr. Salah Yousif left DC to come to Alabama A&M, Latty made the move with him. He graduated from Alabama A&M University with a degree in Physical Education. He played left wing and served as Team Captain on A&M’s Men's team that won the 1977 NCAA Division II National Championship. After graduation, Latty was an assistant coach when the Bulldogs again won the national title in 1979 and was runner-up in the 1981 Division I National Championship. He served as the Alabama A&M Men's Head Coach for 1998-1999 season.
Coach Latty taught physical education for 29 years at University Place Elementary School. Hired as head coach of the Grissom High School soccer program in 1988, Latty’s Tigers dominated the Alabama AHSAA Boys 6A state soccer championships over the next 10 years, winning the title five times (1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998). Latty and the GHS Tigers also won the AYSA U18 Boys Championship twice (1989, 1990), finished second twice, and was ranked in the high school Top 20 NATIONALLY for the five years of State titles. In his 10 years as GHS Head Coach, he appeared 9 times in State Title Games and 7 times was crowned Champion. As the most decorated Head Coach of Grissom High School, his 10 year record was 189 Wins- 12 Losses -9 Ties. Latty's assistant coach, Greg Ardnt, joined the program in 1984 and together they became the most successful coaching duo in GHS history. Coach Ardnt is still an active part of the GHS soccer staff, taking care of physical training, scheduling, player stats, and keeping the grounds in tip top shape.
Before helping found United Soccer Club in 2007, Coach Latty served as the Director of Coaching for Eagles Soccer Club and then Director of Coaching for Rocket City Kicks FC until 2006.
To honor Coach Latty and his tremendous impact on USC, The U6-U10 academy was renamed the Mike Latty Soccer Academy (MLSA) in Fall of 2015. Coach Latty was also recognized as the 2014 Alabama Soccer Association's Competitive Girls Coach of the Year. Coach Latty was featured in a 2015 book "Legendary Locals of Huntsville" as saying "I want a kid to be a winner, not just to win games. When I coach, I am teaching life.....Soccer is not about an individual. It's about setting goals and following rules--(things) that apply to so many parts of life."
Coach Latty's biggest influence on his development as a youth player in Jamaica came from Holland and Brasil. When he was young, there was a settlement of many soccer coaches from Brasil and Holland that coached him when he was young and influenced his style as a player and coach. He idolized players such as Pele, Rivellino, and Cruyff and to this day he credits much of his coaching techniques to the Dutch 4v4 development model.
To highlight the impact he has had on individual's soccer careers, the following active USC coaches played under Coach Latty and have come back to coach with him: Rusty Campbell, Phil Moyer, Paul Tedesco, Ryan Black, Jonathan Zecher, Nick Smith, Yinka Ajayi, and many more who have since had players graduate and are involved with the club from an alumni standpoint. Countless USC families have children and grandchildren in the club who are connected to Coach Latty through teaching, Alabama A&M, GHS, Kicks FC, and/or USC.
Coach Latty retired from teaching in 2015, but now at the age of 64, remains active in the club as the head coach of the USC 2009 Boys and the USC 2003/04 Girls Premier. He is an active member of the USC Board of Directors and serves as a mentor and leader for the entire coaching staff of USC. His positive influence and charismatic smile have always created a passion in kids to love the game of soccer. His teaching methods and perspective are the cornerstone for the fundamental core values of the Mike Latty Soccer Academy and United Soccer Club as a whole.
Coach Latty has touched the lives of thousands of players and their families in his coaching career and has woven a tremendous web of stories and connections over the years. To have the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame recognize his incredible talent as the keystone of United Soccer Club is a tremendous honor for our coaches, families, and players.
Affectionately known as "Papa", Coach Latty's wonderful family includes his wife Rita, daughter LaTara and grandson D-Mike, and his son Jay and his wife, Karey.
Other Coaching Honors:
1986 - U.S. National Coaching School "A" license
1984 - U.S. National Coaching School, "B" license
1982 - U.S. Advanced National Coaching Diploma
Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2020 (article)
Madison County Hall of Fame (website)
AHSSA GHS Sports History (website)
Coach Mike Latty was presented with the 2014 Alabama Soccer Association's Girl's Coach of the Year award. Tom Condone, ASA's executive director, had these words to say about Coach Latty.
"Mike is the Technical Director for the United Soccer Club in Huntsville. He has been in Huntsville since the 1970s and has been involved in coaching and mentoring soccer players and coaches for over 30 years. Mike is a former member of the Jamaican National Team and played for Alabama A & M. At Alabama A & M, he captained them to a NCAA D II National Title in 1977. A National ‘A’ Licensed coach, he has been the Assistant Coach and Head Coach of Alabama A& M, as well the Head Coach of Grissom HS. He led Grissom HS to 5 State Championships including a multitude of “Top 20 National Rankings.” Mike has always taught his players the ultimate purpose in playing the game should be for the sheer passion. His idea is to instill that intrinsic love for the game in everyone he meets, especially the players. The bottom line: Coach Latty is helping prepare these players for life ahead through the game of soccer".
Congrats to Coach Latty on this well deserved award.