Stewart Rodgers is about to begin his second year as the Archbold boy’s soccer coach and he hopes it isn’t anything like his first year — not that he and the team had a bad year (they finished just under .500) or that they didn’t enjoy working and growing together as a young team.
It’s just that first year came during the COVID pandemic when things were a lot different. But, he told Rotarians, “We still had soccer and the kids were flexible with the new rules and masks weren’t even a problem.”
“Rather, the issue was more of a mental health challenge with on-line learning, not being able to be with their friends at school and so forth. But soccer brought them together with a goal and a chance to compete.
With only one senior last year, he explained they were a very young team. “Our opponents were bigger and stronger than we were, but our kids never gave up. With the exception of the one senior, we have the same team this year and they are mentally and physically stronger than they were last year as freshmen and sophomores. And, we’ll have them back another year.”
Rodgers, who learned to play soccer as a youngster in London, England, and continued playing through his teenage years and as an adult on club teams until moving to Archbold about 11 years ago, explained, “The more I’ve learned as a player and coach is that it’s not about winning.”
He added that it’s not only about learning how to play and improve, it’s learning how to play as a team and support one another working for a common goal. “I’ve played (more than) 1,600 games of soccer in my life and I can hardly remember any of the games or the trophies. But, I do remember my teammates.”
That’s what he hopes to impress on his team. “My goal as coach is to produce young men of quality who will reflect well on Archbold.” This year’s team has 30 boys competing for playing time on the varsity and junior varsity teams.
And, no one is assigned to one of those teams for the season. Rodgers explained they can move up or down as they improve or situations change. They are expected to do well in their classes. Playing sports is a privilege. Doing well in their classes is why they are in school.
On a personal note, Rodgers told Rotarians that by this time next year he expects to be an American citizen. Mark Hagans arranged the program.