If ever there was a resignation with no controversy, it's Tom Davidson's decision to step away from his duties as Ozark's soccer coach.
Don't call it a retirement, the 55-year-old candidly admits he has every intention to coach again. He leaves with 851 career wins, 21 conference championships, 18 District titles and a pair of Final Four appearances.
Citing conflicts that would keep him from seeing his daughter, Maya, play as a senior at Drury, and his son, Troy, play as a freshman at Southwest Baptist, Davidson has ended his tenure at Ozark after 13 seasons.
"That was the factor,” Davidson said with emphasis while relating his desire to watch his children play soccer in college this fall. “When Troy signed, it was the beginning of March and I started to think to myself, ‘I’ve got two of them playing in college now, I can’t never be able to see them play.’ To make a long story short, my wife and I both agreed that I don’t have any other choice but to not coach.
"In the past, we’ve had our 3-on-3 tournament in the summer and we’d be trying to get prepared for our season," he added. "Now that I’m not doing those things, I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with family. That’s what you work your whole life for, so you can spend time with family. Now I’m going to get that opportunity.”
Davidson has coached 29 years overall. He was at Kickapoo for 16 years before coming to Ozark. Considering all the success he had with the Chiefs and Lady Chiefs, it was admittedly a risky move.
But Davidson's gamble paid off. The past two seasons alone, Ozark broke the school's single-season record for wins while going 47-7, collected at least a share of the COC championship and claimed a District title each season.
“It was a dream come true and everything I hoped for when I left Kickapoo,” Davidson said of his Ozark career, which saw him coach both boys and girls his first 10 years here. “Kickapoo has such great tradition and it continues to be a great job. So, it was very hard for me to leave. I came to Ozark hoping to build a good, solid program and we were able to do that. I’m so thankful Ozark gave an opportunity.”
Seeing colleagues such as former long-time Ozark baseball coach Mike Essick not be able to coach his final season this spring before retirement, Davidson recognizes how fortunate he is to go out on his own terms.
The Tigers were a senior-laden bunch last fall that lived up to all expectations, beating the likes of Nixa, Kickapoo, Glendale and Catholic.
"You have no idea how much I’ve thought about that,” Davison said. “Troy didn’t have a track season as a senior and the poor kid was super motivated after being .04 of a second of getting a medal at State last year. We’re not going to get that back. But of my gosh I can’t believe the special season I got to go through with the boys last fall. It was everything we had worked for and I couldn’t be more thankful.
“We’re going out on top, as far as beating everybody in the area,” he added. “Arguably, we’ve been the best team in the area.”
Davidson will be replaced by five-year Tigers assistant coach Zack Owens
In addition to Owens, Davidson’s coaching tree of former assistants now coaching elsewhere include Nixa’s Evan Palmer, Kickapoo’s Phil Hodge and Springfield Catholic’s Mike Hines.
“They’re great people who made me a better coach,” Davidson said. “They’re hard workers, knowledgeable and when we had them on staff, they were thirsty to learn. We all grew together."
Davidson will remain at Ozark as an eighth-grade physical education teacher this upcoming school year. That will give him 30 years in Missouri public schools. When or if he returns to coaching, he's likely to look for a job at a private school, a school in another state or perhaps a position at the college level.
Davison is a Colorado native who ventured to Missouri to play college ball at Missouri Southern in the mid-1980s. He was inducted to the Missouri Soccer Coaches Association Hall Of Fame in 2017.
"I don’t know where it all goes from here,” he said. “I don’t know where life will take me. I’d suspect there is some more coaching in my future. I’m not burned out. I feel good. Maybe someone else will give me an opportunity.”