John Tucker has been on the ground floor of a lot of pioneering achievements. He was in the first group of children to play Kickers soccer in Iowa City. He was a member of the first club team in town. He was on the first City High team and was the first soccer player to score a goal in competition.
And just last Friday he coached his 100th victory as Solon’s girls soccer coach. He entered the season with 99 victories in 138 games in his previous eight seasons as coach.
“I’m lucky I’ve had great support from parents and administration,” Tucker said. “It’s not something I was shooting for. It’s just something that happened.
“I’ve had some great talent and great girls, too. I can’t tell you how lucky I’ve been to have this caliber of person that these girls are.”
Tucker grew up loving the game. He said there were just a handful of kids when Kickers started.
“I’ve been kind of a pioneer with a group of friends,” he said. “Those guys went on to do soccer stuff. I loved playing, and it seemed like a logical step to go on to coaching.”
He had no preconceptions about how long he’d stay with it.
“At the time I had no idea,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do it. When I got the opportunity at Solon, I was excited to be a part of the program. I had no idea where it was going to go.”
Solon’s program has maintained a high level of success in recent seasons despite not making it to the state tournament. Facilities have been upgraded. Solon had its own field with a scoreboard and public address booth before moving to the new Spartan Stadium with its artificial turf.
Numbers have doubled. Tucker said he had 22 girls out his first season, and this season he has 46.
Like most area schools, Solon has a handful of club players and fills out its roster with multi-sport athletes or girls who just want to play the game but don’t play it year-round.
Soccer has been successful even with the track program doing well.
“It’s really cool what we do,” Tucker said. “I work with the track coach (Brent Sands) so that some of those girls can be in both sports.”
Tucker said he’s not done evolving as a coach.
“I’m learning every day,” he said. “I obviously don’t know everything there is to know about soccer and coaching. That’s what I try to do, learn how to be a better coach.”
* MILLER HONORED: Solon football coach Kevin Miller was honored as the 2013 Children of Promise Coach of the Year on April 2 at a banquet in Cedar Rapids. Miller was nominated along with two coaches from Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
Children of Promise is a youth mentoring program sponsored by the Community Corrections Improvement Association.
The announcement of the award on the group’s website said: “Talk to anyone about Kevin and these core traits are consistently heard: leader, mentor, positive role model, a man of integrity, a master motivator.”
Miller has coached Solon to unprecedented levels of success, but he told the group that was not the most important thing.
“I hope when these guys are grown up they don’t remember the championships,” Miller said. “I hope they remember me someday as someone who taught them respect and a work ethic, somebody that made them a better person.”
The group made the award “for instilling life lessons in his team that will inspire them forever and exemplifying what it means to be a positive influence in the lives of young people.”
* FORBES COMMITS: Lone Tree’s all-state basketball player Bryan Forbes will continue his career at Briar Cliff in Sioux City. Forbes tweeted the news Tuesday, and Lone Tree coach Tom Squiers confirmed the commitment Wednesday. Squiers said Forbes would sign his letter of intent next week in Lone Tree.
“They kind of got in the recruiting process late,” Squiers said of the Chargers. “He went up and had a one-day visit and then he went up last Friday and had an overnight and met some of the players and talked to the coaches and really liked what he saw.”
Briar Cliff is an NAIA-affiliated school and competes in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. Forbes also considered Central College, Northwest Missouri and Wartburg before choosing Briar Cliff.
The 6-foot-3 Forbes averaged 23.9 points per game in helping lead the Lions to the state tournament. He shot 44 percent from 3-point range and 83 percent from the free-throw line. He also grabbed a team-leading nine rebounds per game. He led the team in assists, steals and blocks.
“They are looking at him as a guard,” Squiers said. “If he gets a little stronger I think he’s going to be really good. He’s one of the better players that I’ve ever coached. I think he’ll have a great college career.
“They’ve got a lot of basketball tradition at Briar Cliff. They’ve made the national tournament quite a few times, and they’ve got a pretty good coach. I think he’s in a good system in terms of a basketball program.”
Forbes also was an all-state defensive back in football, and he’s out for track this spring.
* RETURNING TO THE PITCH: Last season Justin Baker was a forlorn figure amid West High’s celebration of its sixth state boys soccer championship. Baker was in a wheelchair after breaking his pelvis in a motorcycle racing accident and missed the postseason run by the Trojans.
But there he was front and center in the attack Monday at the grand opening of the Ed Barker soccer complex, scoring twice in the team’s 13-1 victory over Waterloo West.
“It’s great to be back,” Baker said. “I’m glad I’m playing with this team. I felt like I let them down last year, so I’m going to try to do all I can to get us another state appearance.”
The West girls team also sported a new face. Sophomore Danielle Craig, the point guard and second-leading scorer on the state-tournament qualifying basketball team, decided to come out for soccer this year.
“I tell you what, she is an athlete and she is a competitor,” West girls coach Dave Rosenthal said. “We’ve got to get her on the scoreboard. That’s going to come. But she’s been a few years away from soccer. You can tell she’s frustrated because it’s not back to her yet. But it’s coming. She’s got the heart and she’s got the athleticism, and she’s just got to remember the skill level back.”
Craig is a forward and part of the issue is timing with a new team, let alone timing in getting back in the flow of soccer. Rosenthal said Craig did a lot of good things during the Waterloo West game even if she didn’t score. She was knocking on the door the whole time she was in the game.