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“Hello boys … I’m back!!” Like Randy Quaid in Independence Day, CHS soccer coach Robert Wood is here to save the day. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Don’t call it a comeback.

Well, OK, actually you can call it just that, I guess.

Playing out a plot familiar to vampire film fans, the Coupeville High School boys soccer program had a stake driven through its heart, only to rise again in a new, stronger form.

After the first week of practice, it became apparent the Wolves couldn’t field a full 11-man team.

That forced CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith to pull the plug, and he cancelled the boys pitch season April 2.

But then, plot twist.

With San Juan Island experiencing a spike in Covid cases, Friday Harbor High School went Smith one better, shutting down all of its fall sports programs.

That erased Coupeville’s only boys tennis foe, ending the Wolf hardcourt season before it began.

It also raised the possibility of CHS netters jumping to the pitch, and, with a revived push, new Wolf boys soccer head coach Robert Wood found enough bodies to field the necessary roster to play.

“Great team, great attitudes, great (weather) forecast (for the first game),” Wood said. “All kinds of great.”

Now on the comeback trail, Coupeville will open play at home this Friday, with a revamped six-game schedule during this pandemic-shortened campaign.

That equals the number of games the Wolf girls soccer squad is playing this season.

 

The new schedule:

Fri-April 16 — Cedar Park Christian (6:00)
Wed-April 21 — @ Grace Academy (3:30)
Tues-April 27 — @ Mount Vernon Christian (4:00)
Thur-April 29 — Providence Classical Christian (6:00)
Mon-May 3 — Orcas Island (4:00)
Wed-May 5 — @ La Conner (6:00)

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Robert Wood has seen his first season as CHS boys soccer coach end before it began. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Robert Wood’s first season as head coach of the Coupeville High School boys soccer program is ending way too early.

The original plan was for a 10-game schedule which would have launched with a home game April 7 against Friday Harbor.

Friday afternoon, however, the season was scrubbed as the Wolves were unable to come up with enough players to field a full roster.

The decision was not an easy one, said CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith, but it was one which had to be made.

Many factors combined to create the situation, with the ongoing pandemic proving to be a major issue.

“I believe, with the combination of us being unable to play last spring, with what would have been one of the strongest teams we ever had, lack of being able to build some momentum from that season, and the inability to talk with kids directly in person is what led to this,” Smith said.

Another factor is Coupeville’s move from the 1A classification, where boys soccer is played in the spring, to 2B, where it’s played as a fall sport.

During the spring, soccer competed against baseball and track for athletes.

In the fall, it runs into boys tennis, cross country, and football.

“Of course the additional competition of boys soccer moving from the spring season to fall also had an impact,” Smith said. “But this is something we knew was happening, but didn’t know we’d be dealing with Covid for an entire year.”

While the booters will sit out this season (with many moving to other sports), all involved plan to work to revive the program.

“I feel very bad for our kids who turned out this year, as well as for our new head coach, Rob Wood, who I was really excited about to see how he could build upon the success of Kyle Nelson’s tenure and continue to move us forward,” Smith said.

“He and I, together with our local youth soccer program, will be getting together to figure out a plan to get this program back up and running.”

For Wood, who was making the jump from CHS assistant coach to head coach after a decade of also working with youth soccer, it’s a dark day.

“It’s very demoralizing,” Wood said. “I’ve worked for ten years to get the Central Whidbey Soccer Club and Whidbey Island rec soccer to a point as a feeder system to CHS.

“Covid killed a lot of sport for the game since we never came together last year,” he added. “I feel bad for those seniors last year that lost their best chance, but now I’m afraid for the program.

“It’s going to be that much more difficult in August recruiting players.”

But the dream endures, even in rough times.

“I’ll be here, ready to coach,” Wood said. “Ready to praise the boys that lift up the first soccer banner in our gym.”

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Robert Wood has been named the new head coach for the Coupeville High School boys soccer program. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

He’s a familiar face in a new place.

For anyone who follows soccer on Whidbey Island, Robert Wood has been one of those guys doing a bit of everything, helping the sport boom locally.

Always upbeat, radiating a love for the sport which he tries to pass on even to those heathens such as myself who have a limited appreciation for the beautiful game, he’s a go-getter.

And now, he’s the new boys soccer coach for Coupeville High School, bouncing up from an assistant position to replace Kyle Nelson.

Wood’s former boss is not going anywhere, but decided to focus on coaching just the Wolf girls now that both CHS soccer programs will play during the same season.

Previously, the Coupeville girls played in the fall, with the boys taking the pitch in the spring.

But, with the Wolves moving from 1A to 2B, all soccer will now be played in the fall.

Except during a pandemic…

The current plan for a return to play during COVID-19 is for spring sports to kick things off, with fall sports, including soccer, set to run from March 29 to May 8.

With the adjusted schedule, Wood and other coaches will need to adapt.

Consider the well-organized new head man ready and raring to go.

“The season will be short — six weeks — so player development isn’t going to happen,” he said. “Thus, playing time and teamwork, and enjoyment is the focus.

“Getting the kids to realize what works, what wins, what fails, and the movements/leadership required on the field,” Wood added. “Long term … there’s a noticeable lack of soccer banners in the CHS gym. It’s time to fix that!”

After slamming into state soccer powers such as King’s, Klahowya, and South Whidbey in recent years, the transition to the Northwest 2B/1B League and playing against schools with student bodies much closer to Coupeville’s should be a confidence-booster.

“Now that we’re playing in a proper league we have a great opportunity to develop a winning program and the kids should realize we’re no longer a complete underdog,” Wood said.

“(We) want to develop a long-standing, long-running, successful high school soccer program that is integrated with the community soccer club.”

Wood, a father of three — two of whom have played soccer for CHS — was deeply involved in the Central Whidbey Soccer Club.

Toss in his work as a high school coach (five years with girls and boys), as a select coach (six years with Deception FC), and running the field as a ref, and he comes to his new job with a rock-solid resume.

Soccer has been a big part of his life, from his childhood days — when he also swam, ran, skied, and played lacrosse — to his time with the United States Navy.

Wood continued to patrol the pitch, and was an avid runner, until “my legs gave out,” he said with a laugh.

Now he teaches computer software classes for the Navy, hangs out with wife Jill, the Director for the Washington State Department of Radiation Protection, and gets his soccer thrills coaching and watching his children play.

Wood (right) watches a game with fellow Wolf dad Kelly Keilwitz.

James, currently a freshman at Colorado State University, rattled home six goals across three seasons for the Wolves, while showcasing a powerful kicking leg and a scrappy on-field demeanor.

He lost out on his senior season when the pandemic shut down sports last March, but had already wrapped up a stellar run as a doubles player on the tennis court.

Daughters Eryn (a CHS junior) and Aby (a CMS 8th grader) are both athletes pulling down A’s, keeping their brother’s tradition alive.

Eryn tallied her first varsity soccer goal last season, while Aby currently plays volleyball in the fall as CMS does not have a girls soccer program.

When he’s not coaching, or trying to explain the finer points of the game to us heathens, their dad “loves to cook” and “at one point was a pretty good guitar player … until I started studying soccer.”

Intently preparing for all possibilities on the pitch is part of his game-plan, though he admits sometimes he needs to step back and just take a deep breath or two.

“I am a perfectionist, but I’m continuing to learn that not everyone is, so I can’t expect perfection,” Wood said. “I will make mistakes … oh well, let’s acknowledge that and move forward.”

What he wants from his players is not necessarily perfection, but a desire to strive for that ideal.

“Trust the process! We’re starting a program that I hope will be effective and successful long after we’ve all moved on,” Wood said. “Laying the foundation is a requirement for players in later years.

“Playing a game without your hands and without timeouts is difficult and requires mental thought and a dedication and focus beyond what they’ve given before.

“Dedication to improvement is all I ask; the wins will come as long as we move forward as a team.”

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Elizabeth Bitting, seen here with Brynn Parker, is taking the reigns of the CHS cross country program. (Corinn Parker photo)

New coaches as far as the eye can see.

While it’s been almost a full year since a Coupeville High School or Middle School team has competed during the Age of Coronavirus, behind-the-scenes preparations continue.

CHS/CMS Athletic Director Willie Smith has five new coaches lined up, but the actual hires are waiting on two things — a return to play, and the approval of the school board.

Topping the list is Elizabeth Bitting, who is moving from coaching middle school track to running the high school program. At least for a year.

“With no middle school athletics at this point, other than a possible track season, Elizabeth agreed to do the high school cross country team this year,” Smith said.

“We’ll evaluate at the end of the year what level she will coach next year.”

The extremely-popular Bitting, who worked with runners from both schools during the open coaching period, replaces Luke Samford, who moved out of state.

Other new coaches waiting to officially start their duties include Will Thayer, Robert Wood, Cris Matochi, and Ashley Menges.

Thayer, who was originally hired to coach JV softball last spring, only to see COVID cancel the season before it began, replaces Chris Smith as CHS head baseball coach.

Smith moved off-Island after the graduation of his youngest child.

Wood, who previously worked as an assistant coach, steps into the lead role with the CHS boys soccer program.

Kyle Nelson previously coached both boys and girls soccer, but with Coupeville’s move from 1A to 2B, both teams now play in the same season, and he chose to step away from one program.

Matochi will coach middle school volleyball, while Menges, whose unofficial hire had been previously announced, follows Chris Smith as the JV volleyball coach for the CHS spiker program.

With the proposed hirings, the lone position still open on the school district’s web site is for a CHS boys basketball JV coach — which was also previously filled by Chris Smith.

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   Sights like this — a young soccer player learning the game in Coupeville — may be going away. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Barring a miracle, there will be no organized youth soccer in Coupeville this fall.

With its Board of Directors reduced to one member, Central Whidbey Soccer Club President Robert Wood announced Monday the club will shut down operations in a month.

In a letter he issued to the youth soccer community, he implored others to step up, while admitting he has asked for the same thing for two years, with little response.

Wood’s letter:

It is with great sorrow I must inform you that our Club is going to close as of July 1, 2018.

For the past two years I have eagerly invited community enthusiasts and soccer parents to join our Board of Directors, and no one has stepped forward.

As of Sunday, May 20th, I am the final CWSC Board Member — all others have either resigned or are engaged with family affairs which take priority.

In order for the club to survive we have just over 30 days to install a new Board of Directors in all positions as listed below.

If we do not, then the fall season is canceled for all age groups, all equipment will be donated appropriately, and all funds will be distributed to Coupeville High School as a donation to its soccer teams.

A small fund will be kept in our bank account to maintain the Club’s domain name and structure should anyone wish to revive it in the near future.

What is needed:

PRESIDENT: direct the operations of the Club; plan for future growth

VICE-PRESIDENT: perform all duties of the President in his/her absence; assist all other BOD positions with issues they have; provide leadership and guidance for the current or upcoming soccer season to allow the President to focus on future events

SECRETARY: schedule and attend meetings and record minutes for archive and legal purposes; assist Treasurer and Registrar in their duties

TREASURER: manage all financial endeavors for the Club; create and maintain current expense budget and plan for future events/budgets; pay all invoices according to the Club’s operating procedures

REGISTRAR: manage and maintain registration capabilities on the CWSC website; create and manage teams and player assignments; assist the Treasurer and the Secretary in the performance of their duties

SPONSORSHIP: acquire financial sponsorships for the Club; assist the Secretary and Registrar in the performance of their duties

EQUIPMENT: determine equipment requirements for the current and future season; working with Treasurer develop an equipment-budget; assist all other BOD positions in the performance of their duties

Tasks that require special attention:

Financial management and Electronic Bill Pay with Heritage Bank (local)

Management and upkeep of the club’s Google for Non-Profit accounts and electronic files

Management and upkeep of the club’s website — http://www.centralwhidbeysoccer.com/

I’m sorry that this situation has arrived.

I wish I had the leadership and strength to gain a new BOD in the shortest possible time and allow the Club to continue operations and provide an opportunity to learn the beautiful game.

Should a group of you wish to serve the Club and community and continue operations I am happy to remain on as an adviser to assist in the transition.

I wish you all well and hope to see you on the pitch sometime soon.

Sincerely,
Robert Wood
CWSC President

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