Whether on a soccer pitch or a frozen pond, in uniform as a player or on the sidelines as a coach, Chuck Scanlon has always looked forward to a challenge.
“I have always been excited about competition,” said Scanlon, a former Richfield High School and Bemidji State University star who has coached soccer and hockey at Apple Valley High School. “I found it to be challenging and intriguing. I even looked forward to Easter egg hunts.”
Scanlon, 61, is retiring as the state’s most successful boys’ soccer coach after this season, his 36th with the Eagles’ program. Apple Valley (7-5-3) begins Class 2A, Section 3 tournament play Tuesday evening against Henry Sibley.
Scanlon, who stepped down in 2010 after 18 seasons with the ringette and girls’ hockey program, also is retiring as a physical education teacher at the end of the school year.
“It’s going to be a sad day when it all comes to an end,” Scanlon said. “I’ve had a lot of fun and really enjoyed coaching throughout the years.”
His career soccer record of 573-102-53 includes nine state championships. He has never been defeated in the finals, whether it was a one- or two-class state tournament format. His girls’ hockey teams were 217-167-28, which included two state championships. Those are also the only two times the program has reached the finals.
“All the wins and losses are great, but there is a lot more to it than that,” Scanlon said. “I wanted to teach all the kids that they are a good person, and have a great future. What they take away from it and into their personnel life, that’s what it’s all about. A lot of lifetime skills are learned through athletics.”
From the ground up
Scanlon always wanted to coach hockey but jumped at the chance to start the boys’ soccer program in 1978, only four years after the sport was sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League.
“I really hadn’t thought about coaching soccer up to that point because there weren’t a lot of teams,” Scanlon said. “I wanted to give it a shot. Plus, I like being outside in the fall — the autumn atmosphere.”
Scanlon quickly put together a game plan for the initial season. He recalled his Lake all-conference goalkeeping days under Rudi Martignacco when he was growing up in Richfield. His objective in starting the program was simple: focus, motivation and to be the best.
“I wanted the kids to be at their best at every practice and every game,” said Scanlon, who was also an all-conference selection as a hockey goalie in high school. “I wanted to push them over the edge, so they would be the best they could be.”
He also had a message to his players that he would reiterate on a yearly basis. “What are you going to be, a pretender or a contender?”
“I’ve seen plenty of pretenders,” Scanlon said. “To be a contender, you have to be a cut above the rest.”
He used the same blueprint 15 years later in laying the foundation for the ringette program that became girls’ hockey in 1994.
“I wanted to keep everybody at their best, yet not worn out mentally or physically,” Scanlon said. “You want your players to keep progressing.”
Learning from legends