It’s never a dull moment these days in the world of Park City High School soccer.
In just the span of a week, one coach was fired, one was hired and the program received a penalty the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA).
This week, Park City was assessed a $500 fine and an official reprimand from UHSAA following an incident that occurred during the boys soccer playoffs where a Park City player made an obscene gesture at an official and fans. At about the same time long-time Miners head soccer coach Mike Guetschow was let go.
After assessing that situation, along with a verbal incident that occurred during the regular season during a Judge Memorial game, Park City Athletics Director Doug Payne decided it was time to make some changes in the program.
"It was one of those things. Sometimes it’s hard to control the emotion of the kids," Payne said. "That was certainly a bad one."
Guetschow was not prepared for the immediate termination. He expressed that after having relatively few problems for most of his tenure and then to be let go without discussion after this season’s incidents was frustrating.
"It was a bit of surprise seeing that in 10 years there’s been no incidents with the school and so to have one and done. It comes as fairly sudden," said Guetschow.
In addition to the fine, all of Utah’s boys prep soccer teams have been put on probation for similar infractions.
Payne was emphatic that, more than anything, the school was ready to try something different.
"There is a process of certain things that we expect to fall in line and that process didn’t go in line, so we made a change," Payne said. "It was time to make a change."
Guetschow said that when taking disciplinary actions, he would always take it to the athletic administration and agree on the disciplinary actions before taking them.
"For the 10 years, I worked with the school every single time there was a disciplinary issue, it was handled together," Guetschow said. "I talked to the AD we discussed the punishment and cleared it with the AD."
He said he also felt that the administration did not give him the proper guidance if they wanted the program to be run differently.
"There was never a single item of feedback saying that we had to go in a different direction," Guetschow said. "There was no direction from the school about how to run the program."
The player in the center of the controversy was immediately dismissed from the program upon the time of his actions. He was not allowed to letter or attend the end-of-year banquet and all communication with the team has been terminated.
"When it happened, he was immediately off the team," Guetschow said. "Unfortunately, it happened at the last game of the year."
Guetschow also questioned where the administration thought the responsibility fell.
"Am I responsible for his behavior or am I am responsible for the reaction to his behavior?" Guetschow said. "I guess I’m responsible for his behavior. Our reaction to everything he did was cleared by the administration."
At the same time, Payne was careful to highlight Guetschow’s success and 10 years of dedicated service to the boys program.
"It’s not his service. Not his commitment," Payne said. "He loved Park City soccer. He gave those boys 10 years. We just feel it is time for a change."
Guetschow said that will take good memories of the program with him and plans to get involved in the soccer community in some other capacity.
"Greg [Gendron, Park city assistant coach] and I always viewed it as our community service and giving back to the game we love," Guetschow said "It was great to have a chance to be a part of really good programs."
New coach for the girls
Things on the girls’ side were a bit less volatile. Following the 2006-2007, Park City head coach Matt Evans left the program to move to California. Payne began the official search in March and interview process was started in late April. The official decision to hire Park City newcomer Pete McGovern was made at the beginning of June.
"We think this guy can make us competitive in 3A," Payne said.
Payne said that the pool of applicants was very strong for this position, but McGovern stood out from the rest.
"He has a little more experience," Payne said. "We’re always competitive. It’s a good place to coach. He’s aware of Park City’s record and intends to keep in that tradition."
McGovern comes to the Miners program from California via London, England. He brings with him a resume that includes coaching on the Division I college level, Olympic Development Pool state and regional levels, World Cup l, U.S. Youth Soccer level and was part of a Division national championship team as a college athlete.
His says his decision to apply for the Park City position after an already accomplished career was part of a need to connect with his new community.
"I live in Park City," McGovern said. "I believe in giving something back. I think the game is bigger than the coach."
The girls program, though, is not without its own set of interesting challenges. The prep season coincides with many of club soccer’s biggest tournaments, but the UHSAA says girls that try do both will lose their eligibility. Payne looked for a coach that might entice top club players to play for their school, but ultimately a coach that could make champions out of whomever comes out for the team. Both agree that it will be up to the girls’ to decide which team to play for and support their decision.
"It’s the girls’ decision," McGovern said. "From my understanding, there’s nobody telling them what to do."
McGovern says he is excited to continue to build the already successful program. He hopes to focus the program on teamwork and goal-setting. He is excited about the high-quality club programs already in place in the area and hopes to continue to build on the program’s success. In coming years, he plans to schedule top schools as often as possible in the preseason and keep growing and challenging the team.
He says that, because he is new, he has no opinion about the team or players or other situations and views this year as a fresh start for everyone involved. He hopes to establish strong communication with the parents and make the girls a stronger part of the community and the high school. He is already planning to have the team attend other Miners sporting and community events to increase the squad’s bond with Park City. He would also like to start a summer camp for younger girls that the team helps run.
"I think it’s a great opportunity to bring the soccer community together," McGovern said.
He also hopes to work with Park City Recreation and Snyderville Basin Recreation to create high school, club and recreation-oriented tournaments to highlight the quality fields and beautiful scenery of the Park city area.
"I want to create a tradition here," McGovern said.
McGovern also wants to shift the focus away from just winning the state championship, to include other goals like higher grades or going undefeated. He says allowing the girls to set personal goals will also benefit the program.
"The state championship is not the end, be all," McGovern said. "Team goals, individual goals, self accountability are all important…I hope to give a good perspective on what success really is."
He also wants to see the team compete in other sports throughout the year.
"In California, I coach back-to-back club soccer champs and all of them played other sports and went to Division I programs," McGovern said. "I think it’s important."
He say most importantly, though, is creating a good soccer tradtion and helping the girls achieve their dreams.
The Christian Center of Park City had a makeover last year, and its boutique felt it was time for one, too.