Every so often, Devon McTavish is reminded of why he retired from soccer. He will be riding on the subway, lights and signs whooshing by, or climbing a narrow set of stairs when equilibrium is compromised.
“There are still things that make me goofy, for lack of a better term,” he said. “I will get light-headed.”
McTavish, who turns 28 next week, left the sport last winter because of lingering effects from a concussion suffered in the 2011 preseason. D.C. United had declined to exercise his contract option – a predictable move after McTavish missed the entire campaign – and no teams selected him in the re-entry drafts.
This spring doctors cleared him to play competitively, opening the possibility of joining a lower-division club, but he had already moved on.
“I am 100 times better than last year. I don’t know if I would ever be 100 percent to play again, but I am able to do day-to-day activities and exercise,” said McTavish, a midfielder and defender who made 83 regular season appearances (69 starts) for United between 2006 and 2010. “I can’t complain. There are people [with concussions] a lot worse off than me.”
Despite retirement, McTavish remains involved in soccer. He ran his first youth camp this summer, in his hometown of Winchester, Va., hosting 111 kids at Sacred Heart Academy, where his mother is the principal. He is the co-host of a soccer podcast. He rents the lower level of former DCU midfielder Clyde Simms’s house, a few blocks from RFK Stadium, and has attended United matches.
And he is organizing Play on the Pitch, a five-on-five adult tournament benefiting Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). The event begins Aug. 15 at Congressional Schools of Virginia in Falls Church and culminates with the championship at RFK on Sept. 23 following United’s match against Chivas USA.
Coed teams will play on small fields with miniature goals in 25-minute games. The entry fee is $50 per player, with each team setting a goal to raise $2,500 through donations.
The cause is close to McTavish’s heart. For years, he played with Crohn’s, an inflammatory bowel disease. It is in remission, he said. His father, who brokers deals between fruit growers and buyers, was hospitalized for months in 2009 with Crohn’s and needs regular medication.
Early this year, when Rick Geswell, president of CCFA in New York, heard McTavish had retired, he enlisted him to work part-time in the Washington chapter. McTavish, who had done work for the group during his playing career, is the local special events coordinator through at least September.
The opportunity to raise money and awareness through the soccer tournament “was a perfect connection between CCFA and D.C. United,” he said. “It’s our first year doing it, and hopefully it will become an annual event.”