Inspirational Franklin Park soccer coach, organizer remembered
Leonard Muckle Jr. set out 10 years ago on a mission to inspire inner city youth with a Christian message and the game of soccer.
According to those who knew him: mission accomplished.
Muckle Jr., 32, of Franklin Park, died Jan. 20 unexpectedly after a regional tournament where he coached one of his teams to a championship victory.
More than 500 people attended a Jan. 25 funeral service at Northgate Church in Ross, church spokesperson Diane Wuycheck said.
Among those in attendance were soccer players who Muckle Jr. mentored and coached, alongside their parents who commended his efforts.
“He was just an amazing person,” said Melanie Sprenkel, of Highland Park. “When one of my sons heard (Muckle Jr.) had died, he said ‘Mom, he believed in me.' ”
Sprenkel's sons, ages 11 and 13, each played for Muckle Jr. in the Ambassadors Pittsburgh Football League, a faith-based soccer league organized in 2005 by the Muckle family.
Pittsburgh is one of 20 locations worldwide and three locations in the U.S. with an Ambassadors Football League. The mission of the international nonprofit is to “spread the good news of Jesus” to all people through football, according to the Ambassadors Football website.
Muckle Jr. completed that mission with his words and actions, Sprenkel said.
“There was one kid who wasn't going to school, so he would pick him up every day and drive him to school, “ Sprenkel said. “That went on for a good while.”
He also knew a few things about the game.
As a sophomore midfielder at Sewickley Academy, he scored the only goal in the state championship game, Lenny Muckle Sr. said.
“As satisfying as that was, it was more satisfying to see him take his love for the game of soccer and for Jesus, and share that with others,” he said.
As a teenager, Muckle Jr. volunteered as a missionary with the Child Evangelism Fellowship each summer. He later dropped out of college to pursue missionary work.
Muckle Sr. said he wasn't surprised by the decision.
“His love for the game of soccer and love for working with youth is what drove him.”
Kyle Lawson is a freelance writer.