Passion for soccer, zest for life, and dogged determination to succeed are the qualities that Derick Bunn, an exemplary student-athlete at Hurricane High School, hopes his teammates will remember him for.
The Bunn family moved to southern Utah from Boise, Idaho, in 2005. Derick’s parents encouraged their children’s athletic abilities from an early age, particularly in swimming. His older sister, now 20, swam for Hurricane High, and his younger brothers, ages 12 and 14, are both USA Swimming state champions. Derick stayed on the swim team through 10th grade and ran cross country during his freshman year. He also tried several other sports as a young boy, but ultimately decided on soccer. “I just love playing soccer,” he says. “Even if it’s not a real game, I just like messing around with a ball, just playing the game.”
“We’re just happy that he got involved with it early and has stuck with it,” says Derick’s father, Paul Bunn. “Soccer seems to attract a really good, positive bunch of kids.”
Derick values the camaraderie he has with his teammates, several of whom he played alongside in club. The boys have a tradition of putting lucky Pokémon cards in their shin guards before each game that represent how they hope to play. If he has a particularly successful day with a certain card, he’ll use it again.
Derick attends both Hurricane High and SUCCESS Academy, an early college program at Dixie State University. He has maintained a 4.0 GPA despite the rigorous course of study and in the spring, will graduate with an associate’s degree as well as his diploma.
The 17-year-old serves on his school’s executive council and is also an Eagle Scout. He has worked as a lifeguard for the past three years and has refereed city league soccer. Among his numerous athletic achievements was winning the 14 and under age division of the 2012 St. George Marathon with a time of 3:26:26. He was voted “most motivational player” on the soccer team during sophomore year.
On a normal school day, Derick wakes up at 6:30 a.m. and drives a half hour to the DSU campus in St. George, where his college classes last from 8-11. After returning to Hurricane High for his regular classes, he goes to soccer practice, followed by church or school events and finally, homework. “I’m usually kept pretty busy!” he says.
“He’s very intelligent and driven and wise for his age,” Paul Bunn says. “He can stay focused and doesn’t get distracted easily.”
Derick hopes to earn his undergraduate degree in his favorite subject, biology, from BYU before enrolling in medical school at the University of Utah to eventually become a radiologist. He’s not sure yet if he wants to play collegiate soccer or exactly where his future lies in the sport. “It’ll still be a part of me,” he says. “It’ll always be a game that I love and definitely want to teach to my kids.”
“My philosophy is that you’re a student first, and then, you’re an athlete,” Tigers coach Jeff Fry says. “His work ethic is there. He’s always on top of his schoolwork, always making sure those things are aligned so that when he comes to soccer, he’s dedicated to soccer.”
Last season—Derick’s varsity debut—the Tigers reached the first round of the playoffs, their best result in five years. “We have a really young team and a brand new coach, so we didn’t win as many games as we’d hoped to,” he says. “But we kind of changed Hurricane soccer. I feel like in previous years, it was always about kids who could hustle and just play defense. But this year, with our new group of kids, we turned into more of a team who could actually attack and score goals.”
Derick says that the team needs to work on getting the basics, like touches, dribbling, and conditioning, under control during the off-season, so they can concentrate on game-winning strategies when it counts. His individual goals for next year are to secure his varsity position and become a more effective leader on the field. “He’s got some pretty big shoes to fill,” says Fry. “We just lost a senior that was really good at making things happen and creating situations that allowed us to attack, so that’s what I’m hoping to see from Derick in that central midfield-type position. I hope that he’ll show that same intensity and integrity with the ball.”
As such a young team, the Tigers will have to train hard and put in the time to develop into a strong, cohesive unit. Derick hopes that they’ll make the playoffs and advance to realize a dream he’s had since club soccer several years ago: to play in a State game.
According to Derick, the culture of soccer is unique in that there’s really no star player. It takes a team effort to defend, attack, and score. “If one person isn’t doing their job, everybody is affected,” he says. “That’s one of the things I love about soccer. It’s a super strong brotherhood.”
Though not an individual sport, it’s nonetheless competitive on a personal level. Derick has had to fight for his spot on the varsity team and his time on the field with the same dedication that has driven him to academic success. “I haven’t been gifted with the most natural talent, like some other kids. I’ve replaced that with lots of practice,” he says. “Hard work and sticking to it—that’s something you learn with sports and also really need in school.” • HSSI