Long before World Cup soccer had Floridians enthralled, Frederick Wilde believed.
Believed so much in the sport, Wilde, a high school science teacher for Miami-Dade County Public Schools from 1963 to 1988, accepted his first high school coaching position at Miami Springs Senior High in 1969. He was the head soccer coach at Miramar High in 1974 until 1988.
Along the way, Wilde, who died July 30 at 83, became a founding administrator of the Greater Hollywood Soccer League and, along with soccer, coached baseball and football for the Miramar Optimist Club. He’d coach high school soccer until 2002 at Barbara Goleman Senior High with son Fred Jr.
Among his Miramar sports students: actor Johnny Depp ( Ed Wood, Pirates of the Caribbean) who played football for Wilde at Miramar Optimist in the late 1970s, former Indianapolis Colts kicker Dean Biasucci and retired soccer forward Mark Schwartz, a 1984 Rookie of the Year with the Fort Lauderdale Sun and inductee into Appalachian State University’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.
“He was, by far, the commanding force of when soccer started in Greater Hollywood and South Florida,” said Schwartz from his home in North Carolina. “He went out of his way to make the sport what it is. Even when we were young he was a mentor for a lot of kids that had never seen the game before or knew what soccer was.”
Sons Thomas and James both speak of soccer sessions at home in Miami Springs, where the New York-born Wilde moved in 1953 after serving in the Korean War with the Marine Corps. Wilde would have his sons share every aspect of the game — and that included set-up and tear-down.
“We used to have to put the nets on the goals and line the fields,” said youngest son Thomas. “Lining the fields first was always instrumental in working with the youth.”
Older brother James called it “blue-collar soccer building. It was a phenomenal development.”
Schwartz recalled a coach who got the high school teens involved in refereeing the younger kids. Wilde would then encourage graduates to head to college.
“He accommodated the whole spectrum of the game,” Schwartz said. “He was the total aspect of making the game a great thing down there in South Florida when I was growing up, especially when the sport was not coming on like it is now.”
Wilde, a graduate of then-Miami Dade Junior College and the University of Miami and a 1967 master’s grad of Florida Atlantic University, had the leeway to coach sports across the county line as he became a Teacher on Special Assignment (TSA).
He would teach science at various schools after starting his teaching career at Norwood Elementary in North Miami-Dade, and led the district’s field trips to sites like the old Serpentarium and coordinated the schools’ entries into the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair. He also taught at Miami Carol City Senior High and coached soccer at Hollywood Hills High School.
“Because he did so well in the classroom with teaching, it translated to the soccer field with educating players and officials. He thought people could do bigger and better and would push that through education,” said Thomas, who adds an amusing anecdote.
“He was always catching animals, like lizards, and bringing them to class and would tell funny stories. He told the kids they could bring whatever they want for show-and-tell and he had a Miccosukee Indian student bring a baby alligator in. And that brought that to an end,” he said, laughing.
Wilde is survived by his wife of 57 years, Kathleen, their children James, Kathy, Frederick Jr. and Thomas; grandchildren Todd, Jennifer, Wayne, Christopher, Steven and Emily; sisters Lorraine Gallarno, Eleanor Toppins, Barbara Hughes; brothers Robert and Kenneth. Services will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Joseph A. Scarano Funeral Home, 9000 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines. Donations can be made in Wilde’s name to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.