During the week, Kraig Chiles is a typical North County dad. He goes to work in the morning, driving into Cardiff, where he is the executive director of the Cardiff Sockers, a youth soccer playing and training program.
In the afternoon, he picks up his twin sons, Brady and Austin, from the same elementary school in Poway that he once attended. In his spare time, he likes to fish.
For 20 weekend nights a year and the occasional Wednesday or Thursday evening, Chiles is anything but typical.
“I’ve been able to be an executive director of a soccer club, coach two teams, make another form of income, live a well-balanced family life, and play professional indoor soccer in the city I grew up in,” Chiles said. “I am nothing but blessed and fortunate to be able to do that.”
From early December through late March, Chiles, 39, becomes a high-volume goal-scoring forward and team captain for the San Diego Sockers of the professional Major Arena Soccer League.
“I don’t have any set end time for my career,” Chiles said. “I’m enjoying each game and each year and I have been fortunate enough to be healthy and available to contribute to the group. I’m just going to keep going month by month and year by year.”
Over his 13 seasons with the Sockers, Chiles has led the team to six championships and has won three league Most Valuable Player awards.
Coming into this season with 436 goals and 630 points, he is the Sockers’ all-time leading scorer.
“You have to be thoughtful with your training habits and how many minutes you play,” Chiles said of his longevity.
In the early days of his professional career, Chiles spent his offseason bouncing from one pickup game to the next.
“I remember being a rookie and still playing four or five times a week, everywhere I could, in the offseason,” Chiles said. “I’d ask [Sockers veterans] Aaron Susi and Paul Wright if they wanted to play in some of these games and the answer was always no.”
Now, as the Sockers veteran-in-residence, Chiles has come full circle.
“I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum; I play 25 times a year at maximum capacity and it’s on a Saturday or Sunday night inside of an arena,” Chiles said. “You’re not catching me playing for fun anymore in the offseason. It’s about making sure I have enough in the tank on game night to contribute to the team.”
In the Sockers’ 11-6 opening-night win over the Tacoma Stars, Chiles knocked in three goals and then, with the game out of reach, made a decision perhaps anathema for a younger player. He exited for the bench.
“In game one, we were up five goals and I held back a little, only playing one shift in the fourth quarter,” Chiles said. “I let Tavoy [Morgan] and Christian [Guiterrez] play more minutes as they want to play more minutes and I need to save my body.”
Chiles, prolific as a goal scorer at Poway High School and then San Diego State University, credited all the hours of pickup soccer he played growing up in North County and San Diego at large as being invaluable for him in the transition from outdoor to indoor soccer.
“I was always more of an intelligent soccer player than an athletic soccer player,” Chiles said. “The transition for me was seamless. I grew up at the North County Soccer Park and the Escondido Soccer Park and down at the water tower [in North Park] so I have played indoor soccer since I was a young teen.”
The adjustment isn’t always easy and some of the biggest names in American soccer exemplify that.
“There are a lot of players for whom this doesn’t suit their abilities,” he said. “Landon [Donovan] had a difficult time transitioning when he played for us at that point in his career. If your soccer I.Q. is high and your game understanding is high, then soccer is soccer. The boards, substitutions, and free kicks all take time for everyone to get used to, but once you get out and play, if you can make quick decisions, it’s the same as outdoor.”
Chiles’ professional career began in the MLS with the now-defunct Chivas USA. He also had a short stint in the USL Premier Development League with the also-defunct Los Angeles Legends.
Quick to dismiss the idea of any feelings of bitterness or failure over his outdoor pro career, Chiles said, “My third year in the [Major Arena Soccer League], an MLS team invited me to preseason – it ended up not panning out. Truthfully, I was always more concerned about the location of the team. Everything worked out the way it should have.”
“I think indoor soccer is a really good avenue,” he added. “If I were a really good player, up-and-coming from college or coming out of the pro-outdoor game, I would look at indoors as a great way to continue your career.”
Through the teams’ first four games, the Sockers are undefeated. Chiles sat out Game 2 and Game 3 – more rest and recovery for an old footballer looking at a long season.
In Game 4, Chiles returned, netting two goals.
The love for the game is still there, but the reason he keeps showing up has changed considerably since his first game with the Sockers in 2009.
“Part of the motivation that keeps me going is my kids and my family,” Chiles said. “My kids are old enough to recognize what is happening and they are starting to enjoy it more and more.”