He’s a scientist and professor at The Scripps Research Institute by day, but Del Mar’s Richard Milner spends his weekends coaching soccer with the Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks.
“When you coach kids, you start looking at life through different eyes,” said Milner, a Del Mar father of four. His daughter Renza, 12, a student at Del Mar Heights School, is on his team.
Having coached Renza and her friends for the past four years inspired him to write “Emma’s Soccer Adventures,” a children’s story about the experiences of a young girl, Emma Clarke, on her soccer team.
“She’s a bit reluctant, not that confident, never really had that much success at the sport,” Milner explained.
But after Emma gets kicked in the shins one day, her grandfather gives her some old shin guards, and everything changes. Suddenly, she feels fast and confident, and she starts scoring goals for her team, the Navy Knickerbockers.
“I’ve seen this in real life,” said Milner, who has lived in Del Mar since 2000. “Some kids are a bit reluctant, and then something sort of magical happens. It’s like a switch is flipped inside a kid’s head on the field.
“I was trying to capture that — I was trying to capture some of the excitement and energy and buzz of playing a sport when a young kid suddenly realizes they have the power.”
Although a fictional tale, the story is influenced by real-life events. Emma’s team aims to compete in the end-of-season tournament. In 2012, Milner and fellow coach Paul Ang led Black Attack to the Division 5 (U10) Girls Championship at the Del Mar Carmel Valley Sharks end-of-season Recreational League Tournament. They placed first out of 20 teams.
“For the young, I hope they take the message that sport can be fun. It can be a blast meeting kids from other areas, making new friends, and sharing the highs and the lows — sharing the experiences of playing a game and the sheer thrill of being on a soccer field, ” Milner said. “For parents, I think they can see it as a book that can inspire their kids.”
“Emma’s Soccer Adventures” is available in paperback and as an e-book on Amazon.com.