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Spokane’s ‘Mr. Soccer’ dies

Van der Meer (The Spokesman-Review)
Van der Meer (The Spokesman-Review)

Van der Meer loses battle with lung cancer

Cor van der Meer, the founder and former longtime coach of the men’s and women’s soccer programs at Community Colleges of Spokane and one of the sport’s best-known regional personalities, died early Wednesday morning following a lengthy battle with lung cancer.

He was 74.

“Cor was ‘Mr. Soccer’ of Spokane in my mind,” said Maury Ray, who served as the athletic director at CCS from 1976-2005 and first hired van der Meer to coach the Sasquatch men’s team in 1985. “He was the ultimate in what we could have asked for in a soccer coach, and he is really going to be missed, not only by CCS but by the entire Spokane soccer community.”

Van de Meer, who is survived by his wife, Sandra, and two daughters, started both of CCS’ soccer programs and retired in January 2005 after serving as the Sasquatch men’s coach for 20 years. He also spent 11 years as CCS’ women’s coach before turning that program over to Jim Martinson nine years ago.

The men’s team he started in 1985 compiled a record of 226-91-43, won Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges championships in 1990 and 1996 and made 16 postseason playoff appearances. Van der Meer, a three-time NWAACC coach-of-the-year honoree, was also a charter inductee into the Washington State Youth Soccer Association and member of both the CCS and NWAACC halls of fame.

After starting the Sasquatch’s women’s program in 1990, he compiled a 106-53-18 record and earned another NWAACC coach-of-the-year award before handing the reins to Martinson, who had previously served as his assistant, in 2000.

Van der Meer moved his family to Spokane in 1982 and immediately became involved with the Spokane Valley Junior Soccer Association, coaching a U-16 boys team. He also played a major role in getting soccer established as a varsity sport at East Valley High School and served as the Knights’ head coach.

He co-authored the book “Coaching Soccer Successfully” with Roy Rees and ran summer soccer camps throughout his stay at CCS.

Martinson and Sasquatch men’s coach Kenny Krestian, who played for van der Meer at CCS, were on the road together with their teams when they heard of Van der Meer’s death.

“We knew he had had some health problems, but it still kind of caught us by surprise,” Martinson said in a phone interview on his way back from Ontario, Ore., where the Sasquatch women and men played a doubleheader against Treasure Valley. “I was very sad to hear about it. Cor was a dear friend and the man who started my coaching career.

“It’s a real loss, personally, and to all those who knew him well.”

Krestian said van der Meer suffered a stroke a couple of year ago and was also hospitalized with some pneumonia issues.

“I talked to him in the spring and it was the best I had seen him look since his stroke,” Krestian added. “Then we recently got word that he had been diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.

“It’s definitely saddening. He was not only a great community member, but for me, somebody I looked up to and admired and who really inspired me to get into coaching. As a coach, he was always caring and approachable, and he exhibited an all-encompassing passion for both his players and the sport of soccer.”

Along with his many other accomplishments, Van der Meer also founded the Five-A-Side soccer tournament, which developed into a popular summer-time community event in Spokane, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

“To me, he was the ultimate in what we could have asked for at CCS,” Ray said. “He not only started our soccer programs, but took them right to top and made us perennial contenders.

“He was a true professional – always loyal, and a man who believed in soccer and what youth and athletes of all ages could gain from participating in it.”