One successful, experienced coach will replace another in Captain Shreve’s tradition-rich boys soccer program.
Coach Stephen Slack officially stepped down Wednesday night after posting a 52-5-5 record in three seasons, winning three district titles and earning The Times’ All-Region Coach of the Year award twice. He helped set up an interview with the administration for his friend and successor, Parkway girls coach Brett Barker, who won District 1-II Coach of the Year honors after leading the Panthers to the Division II semifinals in February.
“We hate losing coach Slack,” athletic director Todd Sharp said Tuesday night. “But coach Barker is impressive in his work and how he handles players and teams, and just what he brings to it and just the passion for the game because he also works and has Soccer Shots.”
In fact, Barker cited a need to devote more time to his rapidly growing small business as the primary reason he decided to leave Parkway after just two seasons. Captain Shreve offers more flexibility thanks to lights on its practice field, so Barker can work more with his introduction to soccer program that collaborates with daycares and preschools in Shreveport and Tyler, Tex.
Work obligations also played a role for Slack, who retired from Loyola and initially turned down an offer to coach at Shreve. But when the Gators struggled to find a replacement for Ryan Watson after he left to take a graduate assistant position in Oklahoma less than a month before the season started, Slack agreed to step in on a short-term basis to help then-junior Chad Usry and senior Andrew Doughty, both of whom Slack knew from coaching club soccer.
The original plan to stay for two seasons turned into three, in part because Slack wanted to stick around for a talented senior class that featured five starters, including future Centenary players Hardy Hall and Christian Lindsey. Shreve’s intensified search for a new coach as this season approached its end came at a good time for Barker, who relied heavily on a senior class led by The Times’ All-Metro MVP Sara Funderburk and First Team All-Metro defender Miranda Scotten.
“We had a fantastic group of seniors this year and Shreve seemed to have the same way,” Barker said Wednesday. “So a little bit of rebuilding involving youth, I think, for both groups, but I think both of them have great potential to continue to excel.”
His coaching experience includes a year leading the freshman team at Caddo Magnet in 2000-01, during the second of his three seasons as a Division I player at Centenary. Barker plans to bring in an attack-minded approach that helped Parkway outscore its district opponents 55-0 in eight games.
The Gators haven’t reached the LHSAA quarterfinals since 2014, when they scored the only postseason goal three-time defending Division I champion St. Paul’s has allowed in its last 14 playoff games. A first-round upset in 2015 and a second-round upset last season didn’t stop Shreve from maintaining its status as one of Northwest Louisiana’s top teams, but Slack believes Barker’s fresh energy will provide some benefits.
“Sometimes players become complacent, they know what to expect,” Slack said. “They know what their roles are going to be and with a new coach you have to re-prove everything.”
Barker said he hopes to include Centenary grad assistant Kyle Symczak and fellow grad student Patrick Fox on his staff, although Barker said Symczak might get an offer to take over the top spot for the Parkway girls.