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At home on new battle front

An ex-British soldier is putting Pasco High on the state soccer map.

By Izzy Gould
Published February 9, 2007


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photo
[Times photo: Lance Aram Rothstein]
Pasco High boys soccer coach Barry Grayling, center, works out with his team at Burks Park in Dade City on Wednesday.

DADE CITY - His battalion's advancing attack stopped as bullets from two machine guns screamed toward them.

The Battle of Goose Green had entered its second day, and the British were trying to reclaim the Falkland Islands in a 1982 war with Argentina.

Pvt. Barry Grayling and Lance Cpl. Gary Bingley made a quick decision to provide cover for their fellow soldiers. But they moved farther than anticipated and popped up literally footsteps from the enemy.

The two soldiers attacked.

When the firing stopped, the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment moved on.

But Grayling, 19, and Bingley, 25, had taken bullets.

"He got hit in the head and I got hit in the hip," Grayling recalled. "Unfortunately, he didn't make it."

Grayling's wound was minimal and he was back fighting in a few days. For his bravery, Grayling was invited Nov. 5, 1982, to Buckingham Palace, where Queen Elizabeth pinned him with the Gallantry Medal. She personally praised his service. Bingley received the same honor, posthumously.

Almost 25 years later, Grayling, now 44, will lead another charge tonight - though the only thing flying toward him will be a soccer ball.

Grayling will lead Pasco High School to the St. Augustine area to battle Ponte Vedra Nease High at 7 p.m. The winner will advance to the Class 4A state Final Four.

Grayling has worked with kids daily at his Pasco High post since 1999. He first came to Pasco County in 1988 on a skydiving trip to Zephyrhills with a bunch of Army buddies on break from exercises in Belize. He met a woman, Sheri, who would become his wife.

"You know us guys," Grayling said. "We look a little bit, then get the courage to go talk. I don't think she understood me because I spoke at 100 miles an hour with a full English accent."

They spent two years in a long-distance relationship before he moved here for good in 1990 just days after he was released from military service. They were married Jan. 7, 1990, in Sheri's parent's back yard and then built a house in that same yard. Sheri teaches special education at Pasco High.

After stints working in a sawmill and with the county cutting grass and patching potholes, Grayling landed the job at Pasco High. He refers to himself as the "discipline man" and it's basically his role to put troubled kids on the right path.

"I try to teach them to respect people in the world," Grayling said. "Some people just don't."

Afternoons afford him the time to practice his first love - coaching.

He coached tennis and girls soccer each for four seasons before taking over the boys soccer team in 2003. The team had finished 2-15-2 the previous year.

Grayling's first team went 17-5-2 and reached the region semifinal. The next year it was 10-9-2. Then the breakthrough: Grayling took a group made up mostly of Hispanic players to state's Class 4A Final Four, surviving a field of 99 schools that began with district tournaments.

"He's a good coach," senior Luis Ortiz said. "He knows when to be serious. He knows a lot. We talk about soccer every morning."

A win tonight would put the Pirates back in the Final Four starting next Friday in Fort Lauderdale.

Pasco is 21-0-2 and won the Sunshine Athletic Conference and Class 4A, District 8 titles.

Watching Grayling at an afternoon practice Wednesday was like watching him with a bunch of brothers. They shared a camaraderie.

"He makes sure we all stay in order and get all of our stuff done," James Sumner said. "He gets us to work hard. I respect him for what he's done, being in the army and stuff like that."

They laughed about girls, poked at each other and ultimately talked about the passion that binds them together: soccer.

"Me and the boys get along good," Grayling said. "Some days I have to crack down on them. I get out there and play with them in games while I still can. I look at working with the kids as trying to give something back to them. I talk about the real world to them. I've seen it."

Grayling worries about the kids as he discusses his combat experience.

"You're not going to forget," Grayling said. "It's real life. It can happen at anytime. I feel sorry for folks today whose kids are in Iraq. I know how their moms and dads feel. My parents went through the same thing."

 

Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report. Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or 813 909-4619.

[Last modified February 8, 2007, 23:15:11]


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