If there's a chance the soccer seed will blossom in someone's life, a good place for it to take root is Germany.
Scott MacMillan was an Army sergeant stationed in Germany with the Third Armored Division in the mid-1980s when he decided to play the sport with some of the locals. His oldest son Josh also began playing.
It was a rude awakening to "The Beautiful Game." Playing in a soccer hotbed presents a skill level that exceeds what is played in adult and youth leagues throughout the United States.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Soccer runs in the family for Scott MacMillan, girls soccer coach at Hubbard, right, and his son, Josh MacMillan, boys soccer coach at Niles.
"We played them and got spanked," Scott said. "That's where it all grew."
The love of soccer that began to take form then continues to grow today. Scott has been involved with various youth projects throughout the area for several years. He currently coaches the Hubbard Eagles girls' team and manages the Wellness Center in Niles. Josh followed in his father's footsteps as coach of the Niles McKinley Red Dragons boys' team.
A 1976 graduate of Howland High School, Scott didn't have youth leagues and high school teams at his disposal to develop his skills. He's never had much of a chance to enjoy the excitement of the sport from an athletic standpoint, but he's made up for that by being among the leaders in area soccer circles.
Scott is on the Ohio North Board of Directors and has been involved with several youth programs. He's a referee and has coached on the jayvee and varsity levels for girls and boys.
"There's not much he hasn't done," Josh said. "If I had to fill his shoes; no way I will ever fill my old man's shoes because of what he's done."
Scott's passion for soccer made a lasting impression on each of his three sons, but especially Josh, a 1998 Niles graduate and the captain of the soccer team in '97. Josh turned down an offer to coach the Red Dragons' varsity team in 2004 because he felt he wasn't ready at age 21, but he accepted an offer to coach the junior varsity.
The next step in Josh's coaching evolution was the varsity job at Niles. He was a bit older and was definitely ready for the challenge in 2010. What made the opportunity even better was that he would be coaching younger brothers Shea and Keir.
It turned into a magical season of sorts as the Dragons hosted the Division II district championship game. Niles lost to Cardinal Mooney, 3-1, but the journey throughout the season made it special to Josh.
"I spent the entire year with my brothers, my father and stepmother and my grandparents," Josh said. "It was a great family thing that year. The assistant coach at the time knew one of the refs who was from Akron. He paid me a compliment I still think is the best compliment I've ever had. He said the game against Mooney was best Division II boys' game he had ever refereed.
"There weren't too many programs (in the area) that had the history that Mooney had. They had won like 10 of 11 district championships. For us to get a compliment like that meant a lot."
Father and son have been on different paths this season. The Hubbard girls were 8-5-2 last week after winning just three games last season. The Niles boys' team, which has dealt with numerous injuries, is 3-11-2.
Ironically, Hubbard opens sectional play Monday against Niles. Scott knows the girls on the Red Dragons' roster from their visits to the Wellness Center.
"It's kind of crazy," Scott said. "I know everyone of those kids from when they were little. They grew up in our youth program. They had brothers that played for me (at Niles). They're like second family."
Scott admires what Josh has done in dealing with plenty of adversity. Beyond that, Scott is proud of Josh's continuing commitment to soccer.
"I ask him, 'Why do you want to put yourself through it?' " Scott said. "It's rough. It's rare nowadays to find someone that wants to get involved. It's not as easy as people think.
"Soccer is different. This week we had three varsity games, and we're preparing for our first tournament game on Monday. He gets three days of rest, the numbers are down and there are injuries and the flu. Try to battle all of those things and make it work. You have to do it because you love the kids and the sport. I tell him you have to take your lumps. I'm proud of him."
Josh, who wears his love of soccer with the scars from three knee surgeries, has similar feelings for his father.
"People are always looking for a leader; an experienced coach in every sport," Josh said. "I tell them, 'If you really want to know, you should ask him (Scott) because he's done it here and there.' "
Neither man plans to step away from a sport they love any time soon.