Championship coach, mentor steps down
A legend has left the field.
The amazing thing is that Chip Cook has reached earned this status while still in her 30s, young enough that the legacy could continue in the future, just not the in the next 20 years.
Cook, head soccer coach at Park City High School, is leaving the program to focus on her duties as a mother and a full-time teacher. During her tenure, she saw four state championships, a No. 12 national ranking, numerous players named to all-state teams and coached perhaps the best player to ever emerge from the Park City program, Kelly Islieb.
She says the success was gratifying, but it was time for her to move on. Cook took a break to have her two daughters Sami, 6, and Remy, 4, during the 1990s and returned three years ago, but she says this time, her resignation will last a little longer.
"You think as your kids get older, they need you less, but they need you more. They are only little once," Cook said.
Assistant coach Andrea Juskaitis, who also has small children, will be leaving the program as well.
"We want to focus on our families and be a part of their activities," Cook said. "But it didn’t make the decision easy."
Another one of her concerns was that she wasn’t giving herself fully to her family or the team she felt she was always cheating one or the other and that wasn’t acceptable. She wanted to give her best.
Cook has been coaching soccer for 17 years at either the middle school, high school or college level. In that time, she said that she is doesn’t remember having a losing season. At Park City High School, Cook-coached teams always made it to at least the semi-final round in the playoffs.
"I love to coach," Cook said. "It’s a true passion of mine. It’s such a learning experience. It’s such a team venture."
Even with all of that success, Cook says that the thing she’ll miss the most is the relationships she built with the young women on the soccer team.
"I’ve enjoyed the success, but it was being a part of more than that. It’s being a part of an experience that the kids enjoyed playing for us," Cook said.
That experience included getting to know each girl personally and using her talents and strengths to best benefit the team.
"It’s hard to walk away. You develop relationships with the girls. You build a program," Cook said.
Cook, who played soccer growing up and at the University of Vermont, has always felt that it was the sport that kept her out of trouble and helped mold her into a strong adult. She is hopeful that her athletes feel the same way.
"It’s nice to win, but I loved it before we ever won state," Cook said. " I love to see the development of the kids off the field."
Part of the nurturing included letting all of the girls, not just the leading scorers, know how important they were to the team.
"Every girl brings something different to the table. Everyone has something to add," Cook said. "Unless we celebrated theses qualities, we wouldn’t be a truly special team."
Teamwork and confidence were lessons that Cook wanted to pass on.
"We’ve always emphasized sportsmanship and one game at a time," Cook said. "Girls tend to downplay everything. They never think they are as good as they are."
Solid game skills were also important.
"I’ve always thought developing skill is a strength of mine," Cook said.
With the caliber of talent in the area, Cook found her coaching to encompass many things team rapport, forgiveness and team identity.
"It just takes putting it all together to make it something special," Cook said.
She said she is proud of the quality of player the Miners program has turned out over the years.
"We’ve been able to turn kids into Division I-caliber college players. They’ve learned that they are not just 3A players and can move onto college," Cook said.
Cook’s most celebrated player in recent years, Kelly Islieb, was widely recruited by top programs across the country and will play at the University of Utah on a full-ride athletic scholarship next fall. Goalie Alex Phillips will play at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Her coaching staff was also an important part of her success.
"My relationship with the other coaches is unique," Cook said. "It’s been fun getting professional insight from all those different people."
Cook said that she also greatly appreciated all the support that she received from the community.
"It takes a city to build a championship team," Cook said.
Included in that, is the immense support of parents who year in and year out took care of many of the details and stood by Cook’s position as head coach.
The parents were very supportive of the coaches’ decision to take time to be with their families, although they let them know that they would be greatly missed.
The community also included the fans, who Cook feels are every bit as much a part of the team.
"Our fans are well-behaved and knowledgeable about the game of soccer," Cook said.
Now that she’s left, Cook says her daughters have yet to realize the change, but assumes that in the fall they will notice the difference. She still plans to support the Miners by attending games and hopes to maintain her friendships with the team.
Cook isn’t sure how or when she’ll return to being some part of the game. She is hopeful that her daughters get involved with the sport, but she isn’t pushing them.
"I just want to be a supportive parent," Cook said. "I would love for them to develop a love for soccer without me weaving the way."
The Miners may not realize the coaching shift just yet either, but the change is imminent. With a new coach taking over in the fall, Chip hopes the tradition of caring continues.
"Soccer-wise, they’ll do OK with anyone," Cook said. "Hopefully the coach will appreciate their personalities as well as their abilities."
Part of her acceptance of handing over the team stems from the high level of soccer being taught in Park City.
"The talent pool has skyrocketed in Park City," Cook said.
Even though Cook made the decision to leave, she is happy that her daughters did get the opportunity to see her excel in endeavors as a woman leading a championship team.
"It’s important that there are no limits in their life in terms of what they can do," Cook said.
She also hopes that her coaching time will influence their view of the game.
"I would love it if they played soccer and know how much I loved it. It would make it all worthwhile," Cook said.
For now, Cook is content to reflect on the triumphs, both on and off the field, that she shared with her team and Park City.
"It’s been a pleasure to work with the families in this community. The support is overwhelming. I feel lucky. I feel blessed to have experienced it as long as I did," Cook said. "Now it’s someone else’s opportunity to enjoy it. I don’t want to hog all the fun."
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