Soldotna's Houglum excels in giving, not taking, credit

Posted: Tuesday, April 15, 2003

A couple of faxes received for this story go a long way toward showing why Soldotna senior Chris Houglum excels in the midfield.

In soccer, midfielders distribute to the forwards and run all the way back to help defenders and goalies get credit for things like shutouts.

Good midfielders don't hog credit for themselves, they give it to others.

Houglum fits that bill. One of the faxes received for this story came from parents Tom and Linda Houglum. It details a list of Houglum's accomplishments, some of which he didn't mention when interviewed for the story.

Here's some of the credit Houglum didn't take for himself:

He's been a member of the Quest program, or program for the gifted and talented, since second grade.

He has volunteer experience with places like the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank and "Relay for Life" Cancer Awareness Walk.

He has been involved in various church youth group activities.

He has spent time playing various instruments, including the piano, guitar and saxophone.

But in that same fax, Houglum included a letter. In that letter, he had no problem handing out credit to others.

It read: "I want to thank first and foremost my parents, who have always supported me in whatever it is that I have decided to do. ... I would also like to thank the rest of my family, friends, teachers, coaches, teammates and other supporters."

Linda Houglum said many people have commented about her son's humility.

"He's rather quiet about himself," Linda said. "He has a humbleness. He does a lot of behind-the-scenes things.

"His quiet leadership appeals to many people."

Added Houglum's father, Tom: "One of Chris' strong qualities is that he's an unselfish player. It's something I've heard over and over from coaches. I think it's one of the reasons he is so respected by his teammates."

While Houglum isn't one to take a lot of credit for himself, others will gladly give him credit. One is John Bramante, who coached Houglum for three years in high school soccer.

"He's a fairly quiet player, but at the same time he's really brilliant with his feet," Bramante said. "His ability to move the ball is gorgeous.

"And it's not like he doesn't score. He had at least a handful of goals last year, and the ones he had were pretty."

After his sophomore year in high school, Houglum stopped playing hockey to focus on soccer. He now plays the sport year-round and last summer attended a camp at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

That has allowed him to improve his skills. Bramante marvels at how strong of a shot Houglum has with his left and right feet. Current Soldotna coach Jeff Siemers said Houglum has improved his touch and ability to go both directions this year.

Last year, Houglum was an all-Region III midfielder as the Stars took the first region championship in school history. However, the Stars lost their first two games at state.

"I think that experience at state really helped him," Siemers said. "It made him realize there's a lot more to soccer in this state than what's on the peninsula."

With senior leaders like Anthony Murray and Ben Histand gone, Houglum will have to shoulder more of a leadership role this year.

"I've had experience being a team captain before," Houglum said. "I feel like I'm ready to lead these guys."

In addition to sports, Houglum has been groomed for being a leader by his job. For the past three summers, he has worked on the junior staff for the After the Bell Boys and Girls Club at Redoubt Elementary School.

Tammy Hanley, the coordinator at Houglum's site, said Houglum was a favorite to the 80 kids in the program.

"He is an overachiever," Hanley said. "He picks up pieces of stuff real fast. I didn't tell him what needed to be done.

"He'll be a valuable employee wherever he goes."

Houglum said it was nice to get paid for doing something so rewarding.

"It's great to serve as a role model," Houglum said. "I'll see the kids out around town, and they'll always say 'Hi' to me. It's nice to see they still remember you."

Houglum maintains a 3.8 grade point average at Soldotna despite loading his schedule up with advanced courses.

Next year, he plans to attend either Gonzaga University or Pacific Lutheran University. One of his brothers, David, is about to graduate from PLU, while another brother, Daniel, is a sophomore at Gonzaga.

Wherever he ends up, Houglum plans on playing college soccer.

"Being in Alaska, it's hard to get any exposure," Houglum said. "I'm just going to go to practice and try and make the team as a walk-on."

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