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Rooney Did It Honestly and with Class

Article by: Pete Hayes, the Telegraph,

GODFREY - L&C soccer coach Tim Rooney, the winningest coach in NJCAA history, fights back tears after being introduced to the crowd Saturday at a ceremony naming the school’s soccer stadium after him. The ceremony took place before a packed house at the stadium between the annual women’s and men’s alumni games.

Pete Hayes spoke during the ceremony.

Here is what was said:

Tim Rooney loves to talk about soccer. Get him started and he can rattle off details, bring up questions, give opinions if asked. He loves talking about specific games, coaches, teams and players. Especially his players.

But there’s one subject Tim Rooney doesn’t especially like to talk about – himself.

We’re here to change that.

Naming the Lewis and Clark soccer stadium after Tim Rooney was a no-brainer. More than 800 victories, split nearly evenly between the men’s and women’s soccer programs at L&C, as well as two national championships and numerous national tournament appearances would be enough. But there is so much more to Tim Rooney than just the wins and losses.

There are few coaches to have had such an such impact on players, students, opponents and fellow coaches.

To his players, he’s “Rooney.” No disrespect intended and none taken. He’s coached All-Americans, future professionals, foreign players and plain old average kids.

And he’s coached both men and women. That in itself should get him a medal. He’s had the perfect personality for shifting gears between coaching the men and women – and he has obtained results.

His sideline mannerisms are classic. He may look calm on the outside, but there have been halftime talks or next-day practices that definitely made the point that he might not have been all that calm on the inside.

He won’t complain about a call in the first half or even early in the second half. But late in games, I’ve more than once heard him jump up and shout, “REFEREE!”

And he often gets the call.

Since taking the reigns at L&C in 1986, Rooney became L&C soccer. Not that it was in bad shape when he got there, mind you, but in 32 years, he’s left an undying thumbprint on the school.

But bring up the subject of Tim Rooney and Tim Rooney changes the subject to his players. He tells us that players win games, not coaches.

That may be technically correct. No coach has suddenly subbed himself into a game and scored the game winner (unless he’s a player coach, which Tim Rooney definitely is not).

But it’s a chicken-and-the-egg thing. If he wasn’t such an outstanding coach and recruiter with an impeccable reputation, those good players wouldn’t have come to L&C.

Honesty has led the way for Tim all these years. He’s the epitome of what a college coach should be. Sometimes, the honesty is blunt. Sometimes, it may not be what a player or parent of a player want to hear.

Honest, yes. Mean-spirited, no.

Rooney’s men’s and women’s teams each passed the 400-victory mark. It’s safe to say that’s a first. His women’s teams won two national titles and both programs had numerous other national tourney appearances.

He’s a coach who keeps his players on a longer leash than some. But he treats them like the young adults they are – or at least the young adults their parents hope they will become.

Helping those players develop is something Rooney does well. He’s fair as well as honest.

My relationship with Tim Rooney covers three different levels – I know him as a coach of a team I cover for work. He also coached my son. And I know him as a fellow soccer parent.

He recruited both my children, one of whom played for him and the other who did not – but has said for years she wishes she had. I also remember watching our daughters play as teammates at McKendree. He and I camped out on the far side of the field together – away from the rest of the fans.

I remember talking to Tim the day he was introduced as Ed Huneke’s successor at L&C. He came in with high marks. He was a former player at UMSL and Flo Valley and was a product of a North County soccer machine that pumped out talented players and coaches like an assembly line in those days.

Things have changed a little since then.

Soccer is no longer king of North County, but Rooney has adapted. He still recruits players from there, as well as from the Alton area, of course. But his net has expanded to include all of Missouri and the Metro East, as well of far-off places like England, Australia and Africa.

He’s been good to his players, one of whom used to live under my roof. He’s been good to me, putting up with late-night phone calls or being patient when I tried to match him in the long-winded soccer tale department. (I never could, by the way.)

There may have been times he was less than thrilled with something I had written, but he never said so. And while objective on the subject, I do admit a little prejudice.

Am I biased in favor of this guy? A man who’s so dedicated to his job, to his family his school and to his players?

I am.

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