In late September, Spartan senior Alexander Francois, who goes by A.J., made his official debut with the Austin Bold, a professional American soccer team. Francois entered the match in the 83rd minute and contributed to the team’s final goal of the game. Thanks to his assist, the Bold secured a 4-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City II and moved one step closer in their quest for the USL Championship.
“It was honestly surreal,” Francois said of stepping onto the field at Bold Stadium. “I've always dreamed of playing professionally and getting the opportunity to do so in my hometown with lots of friends, family and coaches in attendance was better than anything I could have imagined.”
Francois has played soccer since he was about 3 years old, and he is well aware of how soccer has impacted his life. “The field has always been an important place for me because it has always challenged me in ways where I can learn essential lessons about leadership and life as a whole,” he said. “It reminds me that I have influence on other people around me, so I always have to hold a high standard of character to lead by example for my peers.”
Of course, St. Stephen’s Soccer Academy Director Shane Maguire also was excited to see Francois’ dream of playing professionally come true. Maguire, who has coached Francois for the last two years, knows how much Francois has put into his training and development. Francois is captain of both the Soccer Academy team and his Lonestar Soccer Club U19 Elite Clubs National League team. He is well respected by teammates and coaches alike.
“A.J. is one of the most outstanding young men I have had the opportunity to work with," Maguire said. “He is diligent, respectful, reliable, considerate and compassionate. He never misses an opportunity to improve. He is loved by all his teammates. He gives support to those who need it and requests action and accountability from everyone around him.”
Francois’ professional debut is likely just the beginning of the next phase of his soccer career. “A.J. has the mindset, discipline and talent to go a long way in this sport,” declared Maguire, now in his 20th year coaching at St. Stephen’s. “I will not be surprised to see him playing in a bigger venue and at a higher level in the not-too-distant future.”
When asked what he believes the future holds, Francois said his goals have not changed. “My ambition post-graduation is still the same as when I was young: compete at the highest possible level of play I can,” he said. “Whether that takes me to a different state or country, my goal is to constantly learn and grow. I hope to do this all while still getting a high level of education as well.”
While Francois trained hard to earn his place on the Austin Bold roster, he did not hesitate to express gratitude for those that have supported him along the way. “I would like to thank the St. Stephen’s community as a whole for helping me to accomplish my dreams,” he said. “My coaches and peers from the Soccer Academy have helped develop my level of play and leadership qualities, both on and off the field. I am thankful for the way they have always demanded the best from me because without that standard of excellence, I would lack many of the qualities I have today.
“I am also very grateful for all the school staff that I have connected with through the boarding community, my teachers and counselors, and school administrators,” Francois added. “They have also held me to higher standards in the classroom. I have shared many great moments and learned many great lessons with them that I hope to never forget.”
— Chelsea Richards, Sports Information Director and Upper School Athletic Director