Playing For Ray

Players and coaches rally together to support coach Ray Sandidge as he battles against cancer

Boaz Kim , Department Editor

   Ray Sandidge, head coach of the boys varsity soccer team and a local coach at Florida Kraze Krush soccer club, was recently diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. According to,  Sandidge is one of 150,000 adults diagnosed with colon cancer each year. Sandidge is currently going through chemotherapy treatment three days a week, every other week. 

   Sandidge has played soccer at UCF and for the Olympic team in 1978. He stumbled upon coaching at a young age and grew to find a passion for coaching. 

   Sandidge said that when he was 16, he decided to start coaching while still playing for his club team in Miami. After a couple of years, a couple of parents from his club paid for him to get his national coaching license.

   “I played for a long time, tried to make a little bit in the pros and didn’t quite make it,” Sandidge said. “I always liked coaching, and I had the aptitude for it, so I began doing that.”

   As Sandidge fights through his diagnosis, his players and other coaches have been coming together to help his cause and spread awareness. Junior Henry Brown who plays on the boys varsity soccer team and for Florida Kraze Krush and has been organizing shirts to sell and plans to donate the proceeds to Sandidge’s family for his medical expenses. 

   “My mom and I and a couple other moms had this idea to spread awareness and provide support for his fight because he means so much to us,” Brown said. “So we created shirts that say ‘Play for Ray’ because that was the trend we started to help spread awareness, and we made shirts for all the players and coaches to wear and also made shirts for everyone to buy that wants to support Ray’s fight.”

   Junior Mason Dowdy also contributed to spreading awareness for Ray by passing around bracelets with words of encouragement for Sandidge.

   “I wanted to do something to spread awareness for coach Ray so I purchased bracelets online that had words of support for him,” Dowdy said. “I passed them out around school to pretty much whoever wanted them and wanted to help spread awareness about coach  Ray’s battle.”

   Players such as junior Ryan Avallone, who is also on the boys varsity soccer team and plays for Florida Kraze Krush, said that he was taken aback at receiving the news of Sandidge’s diagnosis.

   “We were all at training when we were informed by my dad who was coaching our team, and it was very devastating and shocking to hear,” Ryan said. “[Sandidge] was actually right there with us and he talked to us, telling us that everything would be okay and that he was going to get through this.”

   A GoFundMe started by Florida Kraze Krush soccer club coach Joe Avallone has also been a huge success in Sandidge’s fight against cancer. As of now they have already raised about $40,000 of their $50,000 goal from 245 different donors. Joe said that for the month of October, Florida Kraze Krush teams will be wearing pink jerseys that say ‘Play for Ray’ on them to support Sandidge. 

   “As Director of Soccer for the Florida Kraze Krush, I knew how I felt about our coach Ray,” Joe said. “Coach Ray has been coaching in Central Florida for over 40 years and our coaches, players and families all love the man. As coaches we have to give back to our communities, so when one of our own isn’t well, we support each other. The entire soccer community is behind coach Ray.”

   Brown said that Sandidge has been a key factor in his life for as long as he has known him. 

   “Coach Ray has impacted my life a lot in the sense that he has been my coach and my mentor for the past three years,” Brown said. “He is almost like a second father to me now, and he has just taught me so much about the game of soccer, and he has taught us important life lessons and values that I still hold to the highest standard, even to this day.”

   Sandidge is known for his motto “Once you are one of my boys, you are always one of my boys.” He continues to preach this motto to his players.

   “What that means is that it does not matter whether you play at a different school.I just have an affinity for all of my club players, and no matter what, I will always help them, just like how right now a lot of them are helping me,” Sandidge said. “It’s just how we do things. I don’t know any other way.”

   Despite Sandidge going through his battle against cancer, he has still been coaching his club team and making sure they are improving. One of his club players, freshman Caden Clifton, was moved by Sandidge’s decision to continue coaching. 

   “Obviously I was heartbroken and stunned when I heard he had cancer, but it was really inspiring to see that he loves our team so much that he still comes out to our practices to coach,” Clifton said. 

   Sandidge said that his decision to coach was based on his life approach that he preaches to his players: there are things you can control and things you can’t control. 

   “Well I’m not going to quit, and I guess that comes from the sports background, but we got to go at it and face the cancer head on,” Sandidge said. “I know there’s going to be some challenging days when I am going through chemo, but I’ve got a great coaching staff who has my back.”

   Ryan said he has been taking Sandidge’s diagnosis as motivation to continue working harder and playing for their coach. 

“The whole ‘Play for Ray’ thing I think just gives us more motivation if anything,” Ryan said. “It gives the team motivation to go out and win every game, to get better and fight everyday just like how Coach Ray is fighting right now. It gives us a why.”