High school soccer coach living with Alzheimer's pushes back at - | WBTV Charlotte

High school soccer coach living with Alzheimer's pushes back at stereotypes


Alzheimer's, there are two misconceptions many people believe about this disease. 

One: It's an elderly person's illness.

Two: When you get it, your life is over.  

But the head men's soccer coach at Butler High School is pushing back at stereotypes and showing what resilience means. 

For Jim Mueller, the soccer field is a place to impact lives and build champions but also a place of healing.

Mueller was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's at the age of 37.

"The thing about Alzheimer's is it runs you down, mentally and physically," he says. "If you don't get out of bed and don't do something to challenge yourself, you are going to slip away."

Mueller, now 44, had to retire from his job as a sheet metal foreman soon after the diagnosis.

"I was in the middle of my career, just getting going, making money, and then I had to stop because I got sick," he says.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, as the population increases, the number of early onset patients continues to grow. 

Coaching is Jim's passion so he decided the best treatment would be to keep that whistle, even if it means he has to work twice as hard as the healthy guy.

"I have to study stuff that I already know, I have to write everything down, every play I am going to do or every minute basically," Mueller says.

His players are inspired by his story.

Sophomore Drew Milavec says he'll always look up to Mueller.

"If you just went up and talked to him, you would never know his condition," Milavec says. "He gets us to believe in ourselves. His work ethic, just makes us all work harder as well."

Back at home, Mueller says he is inspired by his three children and wife Michelle.

Michelle Mueller says you just have to have inner strength.

"There are times when Jim doesn't remember who I am, or who the kids are," she says.

So that's why Mueller continues to coach, to stand up to Alzheimer's.

"It's cruel, it's mean, it's unjust, but you don't have to quit or surrender," Mueller says.

Butler's soccer team made it to the first round of the state playoffs in 2012, Coach Mueller's first season.

Before he took over the team was second to last in conference play in 2011.

To learn more about the symptoms of Alzheimer's, follow this link to the Charlotte Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

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