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The Yankee Express

Millbury soccer’s Rose Winston: Playing for her dad

Rose Winston with her late father, Tom Winston—“Papa Tom.” Photos courtesy of Rose Winston.


Growing up, Millbury native Rose Winston found herself infatuated with watching her older brother Connor playing soccer, so her parents decided to sign her up for the sport and before you knew it she was totally hooked.
“I looked up to my older brother and wanted to try out the sport for myself,” Winston said. “I loved watching him play, but as soon as I started playing I loved it. It was a team sport where I could be involved while helping the team and I was having a lot of fun.”


As a prior basketball player, she gave that up during her freshman year in high school so she could concentrate solely on soccer. Before long she would also give up playing on her club soccer team because it was getting to be too much with her school work; high school soccer would become her one and only focus on the field.


Although she decided to ease back on her other sports as a freshman, Winston had originally began playing varsity soccer as a seventh grader for the Woolies. 
  “Making the team as a seventh grader was really exciting, but as the season went on I began feeling nervous about being on the varsity team as the other girls were getting better on the field and I wasn’t,” she said. “With the age difference I thought that I was in way over my head and not good enough to stay on the varsity team.”
With the talent of the other girls weighing heavily on her, Winston decided to work on her game during the following summer. Her brother, two years older, was always on the field with a bunch of his friends working on their soccer game so the younger sister started to tag along and worked with them. Playing with her brother and his friends was better competition and they pushed her to excel in her game.
During her eighth-grade season she found that she was getting more minutes on the field and was becoming more positive with her play with the rest of the varsity squad. 
“That year I felt that I could do this and was strong enough to compete with them,” she said. “My dad told me that I was on the team for a reason.”
There was still a lot of high expectation with Millbury as the squad had won the Division 4 Central championship before falling to Millis in the State finals in 2017. The Woolies were eliminated in the Division Semi’s in 2018 and were the State Champions in 2019 when they got revenge on Millis and beat that school 1-0. 
With all the expectations on the soccer field Winston had one really big supporter off the field in her father (Tom Winston), who had come to learn and love the sport himself while watching his kids play the game over the years.
“My dad was our biggest supporter growing up and he coached us both,” Winston said. “When I made the varsity team he was always on the sideline cheering me on and helped me with how I played each game.”
Winston would go to her father for advice as he knew the potential that his daughter had and how he could push her to get the best out of her. 
“My dad played soccer as a kid but nothing beyond that, he learned the game just by watching us so much,” she said. “He pushed me to be the best out there and told me that if I wanted to continue to be on the field then I needed to work for it.”
While her father would never miss a game, things changed abruptly this past summer when he passed away unexpectedly while driving to meet his wife.
According to Winston, he had cholesterol issues and was keeping his sodium down while eating better, but unfortunately he had a sudden heart attack while driving and before you knew it he was gone. 
“When I first found out about his death through my mom it was really rough,” she said. “I knew what was going on and my whole world came crashing down. Thankfully, I had a lot of family and friends supporting me though it all.”
Tom Winston was known by all the Millbury girls on the varsity soccer team and was affectionately known as Papa Tom. He was a fun individual to be around, was always supporting the team and getting the players fired up before each game.
“He would help everyone,” his daughter said. “I’m going to miss his contagious laugh and our after-game hugs. Immediately after games I went right to him, and he was always in a good mood win or lose.”
In memory of Papa Tom and everything that he did for the team the girls decided to wear a band with his initials (TW) on it above their shin guards this year in addition to praying for him before each game.
“Rose is a wonderful kid and I feel her loss,” Millbury first year Coach Sean Sullivan said. “All the kids loved her father and called him Papa Tom – he definitely had an impact on all of them. Unfortunately, I never had the chance of meeting him.”
Before his passing Tom Winston was lucky enough to see his daughter named to the Central Mass All-Star team last fall as a junior. Along with her teammates Millbury was able to open the season, with Tom Winston heavily on their minds, posting a 2-0 win over Leicester.
“The win was definitely for him, and it was a great way to open the season, but we still have a lot of work to be done,” Winston said. “It was hard to walk off the field after the game with him not being there to talk to. I know he’s still watching and supporting me as we were so close.”
The Woolies will continue to wear their TW bands throughout the season in honor of Tom Winston while continuing to remember what he taught them and hopefully make him proud as they look to capture another Division 4 State Championship – this time in his memory.