How Will Club Soccer Be Without Its Leader?

Leah Mennealy, Journalist

Michael Park, also known as “The Backbone Of Pahrump” faces sickness but still manages to hold together his club soccer teams. Working hard and building new bonds that will still continue even without him because that is what he taught his players to do. As of 2016, Michael, or as the players know him as Dusty, decided to gather kids together and create Pahrump’s first club soccer team. Within a year it grew to be over 150 kids participating, with about 11 teams. All of them being both boys and girls of different ages. Club soccer leaders make $48,828 per year, meanwhile Dusty made none. He made no charges and coached voluntarily. What was his reason behind this? He says “I just want all kids of Pahrump to be able to play soccer”. Practices with Dusty are what players look forward to. They get to talk to their friends, let out their aggression, play a sport that brings them joy, and have an amazing coach that held that all together.
Further along Dusty had a dream to build a soccer park. Not only for his teams to practice on but for the youth of Pahrump who wanted to practice there as well. He had a vision of Vegas teams traveling to his park to play against his players. The park was an ongoing project and he was saving up to purchase park lights. Many of the older players say that club prepared them for high school. It pushes players to learn new skills and have good communication on the field. Player Leila Denton says “What I enjoy about club is that it kept me in shape and built my soccer skills for high school”. Another lesson coach Dusty taught was not just being a team but being one big family. Getting along and having a strong bond even off the field with your teammates can help the team play better. “I enjoy meeting new people and making new friendships with the girls” said Alexus Martinez. Coming from someone who wanted to quit a sport because they did not feel good enough at it, she said, “It was lifting to have Dusty by my side. He did not let me give up and pushed me to work even harder. With that it brought me first place championship state medals and clothes. Not only that but new friends and I found my love for soccer. Coach Park united players on the field teaching them the fundamentals of the sport and most importantly teamwork. He always kept the kids motivated and made sure of it. He was close to his players. If there was ever a situation going on he was always there to listen and give his best advice.” According to a source of one of the younger club players they said “Whenever I would have a bad day Dusty was someone that would make me laugh and feel better”. It was always a fun time on the field bringing laughter and smiles for the players to go home with. Whenever Dusty’s teams were playing a game or scrimmaging he was always on the side lines no matter what his conditions were. He would really focus on what was going on and you would be able to notice by his facial expressions. Either if he was standing or sitting when he would watch he would cross his arms and squint his eyes. That is how players knew they had his attention.
In the beginning of the year 2020 Dusty was diagnosed with stage 1 liver cancer. That did not stop him and he still showed up to practices cracking jokes even when he was not feeling well. Cancer was not the only condition he suffered with he also had cirrhosis which is a problem with the kidney. He had to get surgery in February to remove all the cancer. The doctors were only going to remove half of his kidney but then ended up removing the whole thing because they thought that was best. The last week of August Dusty had spent some more time in the hospital. Friends and family drove over an hour to Southern Hills hospital to create a praying circle, talk about memories, and show his family some support. Doctors there said, “we have never seen anything like this before”. Early morning of August 31st Dusty had lost his battle to cancer. His daughter Khylar Park says “to this day they still don’t have a reason of why he passed, but the main reason was because of the iron taking over his body”. A coach of one of the club teams says “we hope to be playing out on the field again like Dusty would want us to be doing”. He will be remembered on and off the field. Dusty Parks was a pillar to the community and a true inspiration to all that knew him. His memory will live on in the town Pahrump that he held together which gives him the title “the backbone of Pahrump”.