It is one thing to be skilled in and knowledgeable about a subject. It is quite another to be willing to give of your time to help someone with a similar interest.
Steve Fouts and Gary Rue did exactly that for me nearly 20 years ago with soccer. Rue died of an apparent heart attack Friday while hiking. He was 65.
I always knew Gary saw a bit of himself in me. He knew little of the sport until his son, Jim, showed an interest in playing. My sons dragged me into it as well.
Like Gary, I began by coaching rec soccer and studying the game. He eventually wound up the head coach at Western Hills, where his teams consistently exceled on the field.
In 13 seasons as head coach at WHHS, Gary’s record was 170-93-11. A check of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association record book shows only one coach achieved more wins in the same or fewer seasons, and that coach, also in 13 years, won 171.
I introduced myself to Gary one day at the rec fields, and his advice was simple: Read all you can about soccer and watch as many videos as you can.
I did both of those things but I also did something else: I watched Steve and Gary.
Steve and Gary began and for many years ran the select league in town. They were, admittedly, a bit unsure when I approached them about becoming a select coach.
I would constantly email Gary about drills, lineups and strategies. He had a website full of drills and would direct me to those he thought would help. He would visit practice and work with me on alignments and systems. He would watch my games and offer advice.
All of this without once being critical; always with the intent to teach, instruct, mentor.
Gary spoke to me about titles, because though he was the head coach and Steve the assistant, Gary always felt they were actually co-coaches. The fact is, someone simply has to have the title of head coach.
He knew I felt the same about Bill Schneider, who had also coached rec, had as much — or more — soccer knowledge as me, and who coached alongside me for five years.
Just a few of the key lessons learned from Gary that undoubtedly helped us win more select games than we lost:
>Teaching is done in practice, not in games;
>Try to be calm on the sidelines; if you do yell, let it be instruction, not criticism;
>Run in practice; be the team with the strongest legs at the end of the game;
>Every player must move on every touch of the ball;
>There is no guarantee of playing time, but find a way to get every player on the field;
>Understand the keeper is the man in the fishbowl; fans won’t remember a bad pass during a game but everyone remembers a shot that rolls past the keeper;
>The worst lead you can have is 2-0; the other team knows if it scores, it is one goal from tying the game;
>You never know what single touch on the ball can lead to a score.
In a few weeks, Frankfort High will celebrate its 30th year of playing soccer. Western Hills and Franklin County will hit that number next season.
It is arguable as to who is the best high school soccer player in the town’s history. But only one Frankfort player shows on the KHSAA statistical site. Jim Rue is listed among the leaders by most consecutive games with a goal or assist (12 in 1990), most career assists (40) and most assists in a season (23, 1989).
Perhaps he would have put up similar numbers with someone else as his coach, or his father. Perhaps, but I doubt it.
Gary and I always joked about his final senior night as coach. He had actually retired, then agreed to return for one more year. He had one lone senior that year, my oldest son.
Walking across the field with your child is always special at a senior night. I know it was for my son, Joe, and his mother and I.
It was even more special for me, with Gary being on the sidelines.
See you on the next pitch, Coach.