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
Scanlon attributes a lot of his coaching success to collegiate hockey mentor Bob Peters at Bemidji State and working summer hockey camps with the legendary Herb Brooks. He was an All-America goalie under Peters and helped the Beavers to two NAIA national championships.
“Peters was a great motivator,” Scanlon said. “He knew how to get the most out of each individual player. He turned average players into very good ones.”
He gained his appreciation for work ethic from Brooks, who “worked his players to death,” Scanlon said. “A lot of guys didn’t like playing for him, but they respected what he did for them afterwards.”
Scanlon was named Apple Valley’s ringette coach in 1992 and coached the Eagles to state championships in 1995 and 1998. Both of their state final victories were via shutout. They blanked South St. Paul 2-0 in 1995 and Hibbing/Chisholm/Nashwauk-Keewatin 1-0 in overtime in 1998.
“I had a lot of fun in 1997-98,” Scanlon said. “Winning state championships in back-to-back seasons [soccer in the fall and hockey in the winter] was really special.”
Others’ view of Scanlon
Danny Storlien first came across Scanlon during his soccer-playing days at Park of Cottage Grove, and has since coached against him at Bloomington Jefferson. Apple Valley beat Storlien’s Wolfpack squad 4-1 for its second state championship in 1988.
“Chuck is very charismatic,” Storlien said. “He is a great motivator.”
Eagles senior captain Kevin Conway said, “He gets every one of his players fired up to play. The one thing I learned the most from him is never quit, now matter how the odds are stacked against you. That goes for the classroom as well as a game. He always wants you giving 100 percent.”
Chris Lee has served as an assistant coach under Scanlon in both the boys’ soccer and girls’ hockey programs. He has seen firsthand the kind of rapport Scanlon has with his players.
“He makes each and every kid feel like they are a big part of the team,” Lee said. “He wants each of them to feel like they are part of something very special. That is unique.”
As is his climb to the top of his profession.
“To win that many state championships, and over the time period he did it, is impressive,” Storlien said. “He built a great tradition at Apple Valley.”