"You just live each day like it's the last day of your life," said Ty Lewis during an interview for NBC Washington on February 13, 2011. "Play each game like it's the last you'll ever play."
Lewis, the head coach of the Reston Knights FC, a South Lakes High School alumnus and a prominent figure in northern Virginia's youth soccer scene, passed away on Saturday after battling colon cancer for over three years. He was 44.
His soccer career began at an early age, and he played for South Lakes High School before attending Atlantic Christian College in North Carolina for four years. Upon his return to Virginia, he began his coaching career at Reston Soccer Association, and coached there for two years in the recreation program. He also coached teams from the Sterling Youth Soccer Association and Loudoun Soccer.
In 1999 he began coaching Reston Knights FC, and he remained with his team throughout the years, coaching them to numerous tournament titles and accolades. When he was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in 2007, there was no question that Lewis would continue to coach his boys.
"It gives me something to work on, something to keep my mind focused on. I started something I just can't walk away from," Lewis said in the same interview. "You just don't quit. I could easily wake up and say 'I just can't coach anymore'. They keep me going."
Lewis underwent three operations, countless rounds of chemotherapy, and more pain than can ever be measured, but he credited the game for keeping him going. He often said, "the game has given me so much, now it's my turn to give back to the game." Those who knew Lewis knew he was a competitor at every level, and he competed for his own life as strongly as he did as a player and coach.
Despite incredible odds, Lewis coached his team to the 2010 Virginia State Cup championship. This past fall, the team won State Cup again, becoming one of only a few teams to claim back-to-back titles.
To many of us in the soccer community, Lewis was a respected colleague, and to his players, a beloved coach. He was also a son, husband, father and friend. He and his wife Shannon lived in Ashburn. His son Christopher, 16, plays on the Reston FC Knights and his daughter Samantha, 20, is a student at Old Dominion University.
But to all of us, he was an inspiration, and his legacy of determination, his lessons of hope and resilience, and his passion for the game will remain reminders that we should live every day, and coach or play every game, as if it is our last.
A memorial gathering will take place at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 9, at the Brambleton Community Center (42645 Regal Wood Dr., Ashburn, Va 20148). Join family and friends to honor Ty and his journey.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to The Friends of Ty Lewis Fund (his children's scholarship fund): 44076 Tippecanoe Terrace, Ashburn Va. 20147.