Nov. 23 - Awards and What's Next : MO Soccer Blog

Nov. 23 - Awards and What's Next

by Admin on 11/23/21

Just like's over.

The 2021 postseason ended Saturday with four champions standing alone after the three plus weeks of playoffs. Thankfully, serviceable (dry!) weather, quality competition and memorable matches highlighted the stretch and memories were made for many. After a chaotic and tense 2020, it was good to get back to some normalcy and even better to have 221 tournament games to look back on.

Congratulations to the three champions who added to their already full trophy cases (Rockhurst, Ft. Zumwalt South and Whitfield have a combined 19 titles) and to Lutheran St. Charles for winning its first. All four #1 teams in the Missouri Power Rankings won their classes this year making the MPR 10 for 12 in accurately predicting the state champs since its inception in 2019. (Guadalupe in 2019 and Jackson in 2020 were the exceptions.)

We will do a deeper dive into some of the final weekend (as well as some other soccer odds and ends) in the weeks ahead, but our time now has been spent focusing on post season awards.

On November 24 the MO High School Soccer Coaches Association will announce its four all state teams as we continue a stretch where our main purpose comes to the forefront - that of honoring players, teams, coaches and others involved with the game.

This is not an easy or perfect process. It is likely that many or some will disagree with what is presented. That part is generally inevitable. While matches get decided on the field - one way or the other - the subjective matter of choosing the state's best is another beast. Missouri is a big state. Coaches don't get to see all the players in their classes. Their is always the healthy and protective bias of those coaches to push for their own players to be ahead of someone else. It's natural and as much a part of our game as a goal kick or a throw in.

Until 1998 there wasn't a true "all state" team. Generally there were some media teams (STL and maybe a KC) and usually all district honors but nothing that took into account the entire state under one umbrella. Consolidating wasn't an easy effort, but it did finally happen because the coaches from STL (MO's soccer "home") saw fit to open their arms to the rest of the state - even though most of the "out staters" weren't quite at the level of the top STL teams just yet (although it was slowly happening).

As mentioned before, Blue Springs' 1996 championship started to open a few doors, but it was also the other teams making it into the final four weekends that showed that there were some good players being developed elsewhere. Coach Jan Stahle's Springfield Greenwood squad set a national record in 1996 with 24 consecutive shutouts and played in four straight final fours in the 1A-3A class despite an enrollment of just over 100 students. Chris Lawson's KC Rockhurst squads were arguably the team in MO for over a 20 year period, winning 7 titles from 98-2017. Brad Wittenborn's Cape Notre Dame squad won three titles in the early 2000s, setting a precedent for the SE part of the state while further expanding the game.

In any case, honoring players has been (and likely always will be) an imperfect, yet worthwhile attempt. Our coaches association came together in 1998 because the game's finest and most respected coaches were willing to extend the olive branch to those far from STL. Missouri has long been acknowledged for developing and producing the nation's best players and coaches. Our national team's history runs straight through St. Louis and the soccer culture that was established there. We do not have what we have in our state without those coaches understanding what was best for our game was to embrace the state as a whole. Coaches like CBC's Terry Michler, Aquinas-Mercy's Vince Drake, Francis Howell North's Vince Nowak, Francis Howell Central's Dan Hogan and Chaminade's Mike Gauvain (to name a few) not only gave their full support to establishing our association, but stepped up to help select player and team awards. Without their input, guidance and approval we would not have what we have today.

Our association is modeled after the national coaches association. Formerly the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and now the United Soccer Coaches, it is the largest coaches association of any sport in the world. Headquartered in Kansas City, the United Soccer Coaches have been a fantastic support system for us and regularly honor thousands of players and coaches all over the world each year. (This year's annual national convention will take place in KC in January, 2022 and will have some of the biggest names in soccer in attendance.)

Like the United Soccer Coaches, we follow a system to honor players. We have tweaked ours to better meet some of our needs, but essentially the systems are the same. Coaches have to be a member of the association (pay dues and register) and have full access to player selection - from nomination to voting. Many are very involved. Many are not. Many go beyond that part and help organize regions and classes so that our players can get these awards. It is time-consuming, demanding and often difficult because of geography, other work/job requirements and, to be truthful, at times apathy. In any case, we have been recognizing players under pretty much this same format (technology has helped immensely!) since 1998. This year's class reps have gone above and beyond to make all state happen - all on a volunteer level.

Sunday we released the all region teams. We delayed it a bit so that the release would not be a distraction to those coaches and players still playing in the final four. This is the first step in our process. Coaches nominate players for the region teams (this year we have two districts per region - anywhere from 10-16 teams) and the coaches within that region ultimately select the best players from that region based on coaches nominations, strength of schedule, playing ability, value to his team, etc. Players of the year are also selected by those coaches.

From there, we take the four regions in each class and merge them into an all state team. Classes 3 and 4 have more players because there are more teams in those classes. 1 and 2 are generally smaller. While we try to distribute equally among the four regions, this typically doesn't always happen. The truth of the matter is that there is usually a stronger region or two and those regions end up with more players than others. We look at how the state tournament played out, how the season was overall and how teams and players played in some of the more high profile matches they were in. The regional reps work with the class rep to ensure that each region has a say in final selection. Obviously not everyone on an all region team will make an all state squad. As the level increases, the more difficult it is to be placed.

Individual awards are also selected in each class and is done by a voting of the class and region reps. Not everyone may agree and that's likely the case when people will see the teams after they are released. Parents, players, coaches, media and family are all likely to see things a bit different and that's to be expected when dealing with the opinions of so many. Regardless, our all state teams have been selected by the people who know the players the best - the coaches. Comparing player A's season to Player B is often an unenviable and challenging task but we do the best we can based on the recommendations of the coaches who know them best.

Also in the week ahead we will release the 2021 MO Boys All Americans and All Central/Midwest region players. These are the top players in the state - regardless of class - and will be selected by our entire association via nominations and a vote. The United Soccer Coaches honors 85 All Americans throughout the country each year and a total of 380 All Region players. The number of players per state is based on the number of high school coaches registered with the United Soccer Coaches at the time of allocation. Missouri has gradually built our numbers up to the highest we've ever had this year - 4 All Americans and 14 All Region (the 4 All Americans are also All Region, so we have 18 players total.) Ohio has the largest number of All Americans (19) and All Region (64) because each coach in Ohio is required by their state to be a United Soccer Coaches member. MO does not require national membership (which comes with many other perks and benefits) but we do offer a $25 discount to dues and an additional $25 off to convention fees by being a member of our association, so essentially our state fees are minimal. This year MO ranks 5th nationally in coaches memberships - a big jump from previous years.

In addition to all of that we will announce the Academic All State team (we do ours differently than other sports...for more explanation, you can look go to the Academic All State page on our website) and the state Coaches of the Year (for national purposes, there are three categories: Small Public (Class 1 and 2), Large Public (Class 3 and 4) and Private/Parochial (all private, parochial and charter schools - regardless of class size). As a state we honor a Private and a Public Coach of the Year in each class, but nationally we have to fill in those three categories. State winners are up for region awards and if a coach wins the region award he is up for the National Coach of the Year against the other regions. We have several other specific awards that will be voted on by the association and announced in the weeks ahead.

Finally, we will have a few more items to discuss to wrap up the 2021 season. Final Missouri Power Rankings will be posted in the days ahead (Thanksgiving will likely slow our postings a bit), as will the final strength of schedule rankings for each team - something new to look at. While not necessarily an indicator of success, it does bring light to how difficult a team's schedule was for the year. Obviously a lot of factors go into a schedule (location, conferences, rivalries, tournaments, etc.) and it's not an area that can be pinpointed each year because predicting success isn't always an easy thing to do. We will take a look at that in more detail after Thanksgiving.

Plenty more to come...have a safe and healthy Thanksgiving!

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