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Sedro-Woolley senior a positive force on soccer field

May 10, 2018 GMT

SEDRO-WOOLLEY — Alec Tanner stands out during varsity boys’ soccer practices at Sedro-Woolley High School.

It’s not his cerebral palsy — a neurological disease that affects movement and coordination — that people notice about the 18-year-old, but his ever-present smile, coach Gary Warman said.

“It’s really hard to be in a bad mood around him,” Warman said.

For the past three years, Tanner has been bringing his positive attitude to the soccer field as a coach, Warman said.

“I tell them to work harder, to keep it up and don’t suck it up,” Tanner said.

From his knees, Tanner not only coaches but participates in practices, attempting to take the ball from the players, or retrieving balls that don’t find the net.

“And we miss a lot so he’s got a lot of work to do,” Warman said with a smile.

Tanner said when he was in middle school, he helped coach the school’s football team. When he got to high school, he transitioned to soccer.

No matter the sport, he said, he likes being part of a team.

“Having fun and motivating them to be better,” he said.

At first, Warman said, having Tanner on the field wasn’t easy. He was worried about how Tanner would fit in with the other boys and about his safety: Would Tanner need knee pads to protect him from snow?

“The obstacles bothered me more than they bothered Alec,” Warman said. “It’s been wonderful for our guys to be around him.”

Rain or shine, Tanner gets to as many practices and home games as he can, said his grandfather Ray Tanner.

“He’s really social,” Ray Tanner said. “He takes great pride in being with all his teammates. He takes his role as seriously as he can.”

Alec Tanner’s enthusiasm hasn’t gone unnoticed by his team.

“There’s nothing but positive vibes from him,” senior Brandon Nelson said. “It’s five minutes into a rainy game, he’s drenched in water and he’s got this big smile on his face. He’s always encouraging.”

Nelson and his brother Alex have known Tanner since they were in middle school. In all that time, Alex Nelson said, he can’t remember ever seeing Tanner in a bad mood.

“He’s the player that, no matter the score, no matter the time of game, he’s always there to support you,” Alex Nelson said. “It’s awesome.”

As Alec Tanner’s last soccer season wound down last week, Warman said he would like to see other teams incorporate students such as Tanner onto their teams. The benefits, he said, go far beyond the field.

“Whatever enjoyment he has gotten out of being here, our players have gotten 10-fold,” Warman said. “This has been a good thing for everybody.”