A player and a referee: Troup senior Thomas Cotton has dedicated almost a decade to soccer

Published 10:56 am Saturday, April 13, 2024

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Soccer and Thomas Cotton have formed a natural pairing. The Troup High senior is on his final stretch playing with the Tigers and is seeing his time with soccer coming to at least a temporary conclusion. 

When not punching away shots in goal for the Tigers, Cotton stays involved with the game of soccer as much as he can. Often, it is playing the sport, whether it is pick-up or club. But Cotton is not just a player, he is also a referee.

“I honestly just needed money growing up and I knew the sport pretty well,” he said, chuckling. “Now, I’m an experienced ref and I do travel games, and refereeing has kind of become a passion of mine and I make pretty good money too.”

Despite his youth, Cotton is an accomplished referee with the Troup County Parks and Rec system as well as through travel/club soccer. While the players and coaches respect him, winning over the parents has been a tougher obstacle to overcome. 

“The first time that I refed a travel game, I had a parent come up and say who is this kid and I was pretty nervous about getting criticized by parents,” Cotton said. “The coaches told me it was ok if I made a mistake and that helped a lot, but I just wanted to make sure the parents didn’t get in my head.”

His time refereeing has also shaped the way he views the game of soccer. It has caused him to change his perspective while playing.

“When a ref is now refereeing my game and I see that he missed something it gets me even more frustrated, but I have to keep it to myself,” Cotton said.

Cotton’s soccer journey started almost a decade ago, by chance more than anything.

“When I was nine years old, my mom said out of nowhere that she was signing me up for soccer, and I’m glad she did because I love it now and it is my everyday hobby,” Cotton said with a big smirk.

His soccer journey has also been a winding one. His position has changed so much over the years, especially during his four seasons at Troup High.

“My position has changed drastically over the years,” Cotton said. “At first it was center-back and right-back and then at the high school level, it was center-back, striker, center defensive mid and now goalkeeper.

“I played some in goal, but it was over four years ago, so conditioning has been tough.”

Cotton has been a stalwart for Troup for years and has been happy to play wherever the team needs him. With a hole at goalkeeper, the coaches asked Cotton to step into goal and it was a quick yes for the senior as he welcomes any opportunity he can to help the team.

In the opening scrimmage against Callaway this season, Cotton was in goal for the first time in a long time.

“I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but I was sure like I wanted to get that first save just so I’d start to feel comfortable,” Cotton said. “I know a lot of the Callaway players, so I wouldn’t say I wasn’t ready for it. But at the same time, I did not want to let them score first.”

As a graduate of Rosemont Elementary and Long Cane Middle, Troup High was always set to be home for Cotton for four years. What he did not expect, is how fast those four years would fly by. Cotton is guaranteed only one more game with the Troup boys soccer game, an away playoff game against either Cairo or Bainbridge and the senior plans to make the most of his final run in blue and gold.

“It means a lot to represent this school and put on the jersey and go out there and play,” Cotton said. “It is a big thing to represent this school.”