Sunday Profile: Passion on the soccer pitch
Steve White’s passion is all too clear from the moment people step through his office door in downtown Glenwood Springs.
A Colorado Rapids throw rug adorns a chair next to the conference table at his business, Steve White Insurance. In that same room is a poster from 1994 when the United States hosted the World Cup. The wall of the conference room displays the blueprints of Gates Soccer Park, the five-field facility at Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus.
Then ask White about the players who have come through the Glenwood Springs High School boys and girls soccer program since it began 25 years ago. He nearly glows.
“This kid right here was just a tremendous player,” said White, who earlier this month was reading off the names of players he’s coached over the past generation at Glenwood.
It’s those kids who he credits for his overall success as a coach. Including Saturday’s 2-1 loss against Grand Junction, White has compiled an overall high school coaching record — boys and girls soccer — of 250-136-26. The milestone 250th victory came last Monday, April 20, with the Demons’ 3-1 victory at Delta.
“It’s primarily because I’ve had some very outstanding young people to work with,” White said. “It’s not necessarily because of anything that I’ve done as a coach, because everything that we’ve achieved we’ve achieved together.”
SETTING A FOUNDATION
White, 63, was a member of the group associated with the Glenwood Springs Soccer Club who lobbied for Glenwood Springs High to field a soccer team. The wish was granted and, in 1989, the school added boys soccer with co-coaches Bruce Kime and Barb Hicks running the program, which began when there was just one classification in Colorado for the sport. It turned out to be a successful inaugural season, as the Demons lost in the first round of the state playoffs at Class 5A Doherty in Colorado Springs, 3-1.
White took over the program in 1990 when it was still a co-ed program — girls soccer didn’t begin at the high school until the spring of 1992 — which started a run of eight consecutive winning seasons by the Demons that included a trip to the Class 4A semifinals in 1995.
White wasn’t immediately named the head coach of the girls program, serving as an assistant coach to Sandy DeCrow (formerly Sandy Nieslanik). He did, however, come away with one of his more memorable experiences as a coach.
During that inaugural girls soccer season, 13 varsity players were suspended for the season for violating team policy after they were caught drinking at a party, White said. That left five varsity players on the roster, forcing White and Nieslanik to bring up 12 freshman from the junior varsity team to finish the season.
“I actually had two girls who came over that night to watch movies with us at our house,” White said, laughing. “I asked them later on why they came over that night. They told me ‘We knew the party was going on. We wanted to make sure our alibi was solid.’”
The team that remained won three of its remaining four games, including a slim 1-0 loss to Steamboat Springs and a victory over previously unbeaten Aspen. The Demons missed the state playoffs by just one game.
“That set a standard of achievement that had held up all of these years later in each and every season,” White said.
White was also a part of a group associated with the Glenwood Springs Soccer Club that, thanks in part to a $525,000 Gates Family Foundation Grant, prompted the construction of Gates Soccer Park on the CMC campus. With that, Colorado Mountain College fielded a men’s soccer program sanctioned by the National Junior College Athletic Association. White was the Eagles’ only coach there until 2009, when CMC decided to cut the program at the depths of the Great Recession. At the time, CMC said its goal was to bring its program back by the 2012-13 season, but it has yet to do so.
Meanwhile, while White coached at CMC, Gates became a destination of sorts for youth and high school teams around the state. At the high school, Glenwood had seven different boys soccer coaches from 1998 until 2012, including two in 2001 when Charlie Wiencek coached the end of the season following the abrupt resignation of Shawn McElroy.
White decided to come back and coach both the girls and boys teams again, taking over the boys program for two seasons from 2012-13 while retaining his current gig as the Glenwood girls soccer coach from the 2010 season until now. In all, White, a 25-year member of the National Soccer Coaches Association, has coached soccer at the school for all but eight of the years it’s had a soccer program.
NOT QUITE DONE
White has accumulated plenty of memories over the years.
He can recall back in 1997 when Glenwood’s football team played only a junior varsity schedule, fearing backlash from the community since some people were blaming soccer for an unsuccessful period for Glenwood’s football program.
“I remember looking at the headline in the paper, looking at my wife and saying to her, ‘The phone is going to ring today,’” he said. “That was a period where kids were given more options and chose to take part in the activity they wanted to take part in.”
He can also remember the league championships — five boys and five girls — the Demons have won. Most of all, however, he remembers the players who have gone from strong careers as high school players to become successful in whatever endeavors they’ve chosen in adult life.
Plus, he hasn’t put a timeline on how much longer he’ll be on Glenwood’s sideline, leaving the possibility that White could be around for many years to come.
“It’s hard to say how much longer I’ll do this for,” he said. “This is my passion. I want to be part of this for as long as I can.”
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