Coach of the Year

River City Steelers make sure Jeff Orwick recognized

Jeff Orwick believes in long-term relationships.

When his daughter, Haley, started playing soccer, the dutiful dad and longtime coach signed on. That singular act turned into a 13-year run coaching a highly competitive squad.

“The players have changed over the years,” he said. “They come, and they go. There’s a core group that have been there all along.

“I know there’s a debate over how long the kids should have the same coach. Some say there should be a change every couple years. But when it’s your daughter, it’s kind of special.”

That core group completed their youth soccer careers following the 2007-08 season. The River City SC girls U-19 select team played in the area’s Premier League, winning the regular season title with a record of 8 -1-1. They reached the state select semifinals, where they fell to eventual state champion Crossfire Premier in a shootout.

The team didn’t want to leave it at that, however.

How do you thank someone who helps you reach your personal potential? How do you thank someone for countless hours volunteering their expertise, someone who’s helped take your game to the next level?

They found a way.

Following the season, the players got together, wrote a series of essays and filled out the necessary paperwork to nominate Orwick for the Washington State Youth Soccer Girls Competitive Coach of the Year.

“It means a lot to me that they did that,” Orwick said. “It took a lot of work on their part to be able to do it and it was really appreciated. The time and work they put into it was really special. They put together a book with all the paperwork and all the letters of recommendation they wrote. We had one player who was with us for a year while her father was stationed out at Fairchild Air Force Base. He’s stationed now in Belgium and even she wrote a letter.”

Three players will go on to play college soccer.

East Valley alumna Kaylyn Plumb already plays at Whitworth. Callie Paul, who just graduated from Lakeside-Nine Mile Falls, will join her with the Pirates in the fall. Jacy Fitzpatrick, Paul’s teammate with the Eagles, will play at Eastern Washington University in the fall.

Plumb wasn’t slotted to start for the Pirates in her first season on campus. By the season opener she was a starting defender. By the end of the season, she was one of four Whitworth players to be named to the All Northwest Conference first-team. Along the way, she scored eight goals – four of them game-winners.

“Kaylynn was one of those players that you have to really watch over the course of a couple games to fully appreciate,” Orwick said. “Then you could see it. She was always able to run shoulder-to-shoulder with the best forwards and still be able to make the clean pick.

“She was a pick-up player for us for tournaments at first, and then she joined us for a full season. She played a tournament with us and the Pacific Lutheran coach called her and talked to her about playing there. At the next tournament, the Whitworth coach saw her and talked to her about playing there, and it all worked out well for her.”

Sean Bushey not only recruited Plumb to play for his Bucs squad, he also began recruiting Paul at the same time – a two-for-one find in River City.

“Jeff has done so much for these girls, I’m delighted that he gets some recognition for all that he does,” said Downs Paul, the team’s manager and Callie Paul’s mother.

“When Callie came home and said she really wanted to play for Jeff out in Spokane Valley, I said ‘Can’t you find anything closer?’ ” she said. “I mean, weren’t there teams on the North Side that she could play for? All I could think about was how much commuting we were going to have to do.

“But she said that she’d heard that Jeff was a great coach and the kind of coach she really wanted to play for. I understand that now – and thankfully, once she got her driver’s license, it wasn’t quite so difficult to make it all work.”

Paul brought Fitzpatrick to carpool, but the pair were far from most distant team members.

“We’ve had players from just about every Greater Spokane League school over the years,” Orwick said. “We’ve had players from Cheney just about every year.

“The interesting thing is that the players with the farthest to travel are the ones who never miss seem to miss a practice.”

Several of the younger players from this year’s River City team are looking to catch on with another U-19 team for their final season of club soccer.

Orwick said he’s already signed up to coach a U-11 girls team.

“I guess I’m going to start over,” he laughed. “I try to think more in short-term goals. I don’t look that far ahead.”

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