Tom Sukaratana was recognized by his peers and soccer players on May 16 during a surprise recognition party honoring his more than 30 years of dedication to the sport here.
Sukaratana has coached for the Hinesville Soccer Association, entering its 31st season and is also the head coach at First Presbyterian Christian Academy.
“I am normally a good Sherlock Holmes, but this time I was totally caught off guard. I didn’t know nothing about it. I thought we were going to a ceremony for my wife,” Sukaratana said.
“It took him by complete surprise,” Sukaratana’s wife said. “He was overwhelmed by the love and support everyone showed him. Tom still can’t believe he never caught on.”
Dr. Debra Sukaratana is an assistant principal at Waldo Pafford Elementary and is to be appointed principal at Frank Long Elementary in July.
The coach said he received a call from Waldo Pafford Principal Dr. Sonia Bacon, saying they were having a farewell dinner for his wife. But it was a ruse to hide the coach’s party organized by Sarah Williams, Pam Hall, Nancy Floyd, Angel Dargan and others.
“Our goal was to honor Tom the best we could with such short notice and to make sure he knew what a blessing he is to so many people and kids.” Williams said. “Last year was actually his 30th, and there was not a get-together, so we just put our heads together and decided this needed to be the year, with Clark being a senior, and the team going to state again. We knew, win or lose, he needed to know how loved he is.
She said she’s known “Coach Tom,” as he is known, for two years. She said his inluence on her son and family is tremendous.
“He has a way of making you feel like family and making the boys on his soccer team feel like they have another father figure,” Williams said, adding the coach helped her sons deal with their father’s deployment last year.
Williams said it wasn’t easy keeping the surprise party from the coach.
“We kept the ceremony a secret by hand delivering, calling and sending separate emails for invites,” she said. “We also kept the location a secret until the week before so that people would not accidently tell him they could not make it.”
Sukaratana said his players were even able to hide spending time filming video clips honoring him. The organizers were able to invite several former Hinesville Gator players, including some who played on the very first Gators’ team.
“Tom’s recognition was more than well-deserved,” his wife said. “He has made so many sacrifices for young people through club and school soccer over all of these years. I am very proud of him.”
In addition to being honored by his current and former players, FPCA board member Jerry Kicklighter honored the coach for his 10 years at FPCA. Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas also presented a city lifetime achievement award to Sukaratana.
“I was so honored…very honored,” the coach said. “I was still feeling a bit down from losing the state game. It was one of the best surprises.”