After a long day at the office, a Marietta based financial analyst prepares to leave work for the day. His day is not finished, however, as he still makes the long-distance drive to coach a soccer client. The next day, he has to make the drive to another field to run a pickup session. Over the weekend, he’s running adult league games and meeting with more clients.
For Stephen Bivens, soccer is an integral part of everyday life, and his love for the game has inspired him to give back to the soccer community in various parts of Georgia. Bivens says he has been playing soccer for as long as he can remember and first became familiar with soccer as a child through his older brother and father, who both played and coached soccer while he was growing up.
“From a young age, my dad had me kicking a ball around the yard and around the house,” Bivens said. “I just fell in love with it.”
It’s fairly easy to see the pattern that would leave an impression on Bivens’ life. Bivens initially began playing soccer in Georgia youth leagues and eventually made his way to Classic 1, the highest level of competitive youth soccer in Georgia at the time. Bivens also participated in the Professional Development Program, a summer program that allowed him to travel around the southeast and play against other highly rated youth players.
Bivens was a talented prospect in high school and attracted attention from a plethora of division one programs, but soccer wasn’t the only reason he was earning that attention. While he played soccer throughout high school Bivens was also Douglas County High School’s varsity football kicker for four years.
It was during his junior year of high school that the offers began to come in. He initially chose to play college football because the football scholarship offers were better than the offers he received to play soccer. That soon changed and Bivens decided to drop the football offers and follow his passion for soccer instead.
“I loved soccer and soccer was my passion growing up,” Bivens said. “Ultimately, at the end of the day, I made the decision to stick with soccer because I love it.”
By the time Bivens had decided to pursue soccer over football, all of the division one soccer programs were completely full, so he attended and played for Mars Hill College in the NCAA Division II in North Carolina. He primarily played as a striker and scored 12 goals in eight games during his senior year, a record that saw him sit top five in the NCAA scoring charts that year before sustaining an ankle injury that disrupted his season.
Despite losing his hot streak and being forced to sit out, Bivens attracted enough attention to be invited to some USL combines, showcases where professional coaches are able to scout for players. Eventually, some National Premier Soccer League teams reached out and Bivens played two seasons with the Georgia Revolution. After that chapter of his life concluded, Bivens dedicated his efforts toward giving back to the local soccer community.
“After playing for the Georgia Revolution it [was about] my love for the game and I just wanted to give back to the younger kids that wanted to play,” Bivens said. “I started doing a lot of training for myself and training with groups and younger kids.”
Bivens began to give back to local soccer by conducting his own private training sessions when he was 24. His passion for the game never wavered, and he still meets with clients on a regular basis at the age of 28.
Bivens drives all over the state to train clients, an often challenging task. Depending on the time of year, Bivens usually meets with around 20 clients per month. Creating a schedule that works around his job and adheres to travel time and location can be tough, but Bivens makes it work.
One of Bivens’ newest ventures is creating and running weekly adult soccer leagues and pickup sessions. In the last year, Bivens has started two 7v7 adult leagues near Carrollton and hopes to have a two-division adult league this upcoming spring in Douglasville. He’s also dedicated Thursday nights to running pickup sessions, creating a space where players of any skill level can play.
He’s busy, but Bivens has worked on his scheduling skills over the last four years and has cut out aspects of his life that he simply doesn’t have the time for.
“As you do it, you learn how to do things better and more efficiently,” Bivens said. “It takes time, but you figure out the things that you can cut out of your life. That allows you to really focus on the things that do matter and need to get done.”
Despite all that Bivens has already done for soccer on a local level, he wants to keep going. He hopes to eventually run multiple adult leagues on multiple nights and open his own indoor soccer facility where he can host training sessions and his own league games.
“My goal is to build out the adult soccer community and have a large adult soccer community that has a couple of different leagues that people can play out of,” Bivens said. “I would have never expected to be doing this much. The interesting thing is that I have a full-time finance job that’s my career path that’s going to make a living for me and pay my bills and support my family. But I also have a very strong passion for soccer, so I love to play, I love to teach it, and I love to coach. I balance all of those and it makes it all worth it.”