New Blair boys soccer coaches Curt Scott and Bill Kesling have an ultimate goal for the spring season.
“With the core group that we have, we want to make sure their senior year — this year — is awesome for them,” said Scott, the first-year head coach. “That's really important for us.”
After the NSAA canceled the 2020 spring campaign due to uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, BHS' five spring teams start 2021 with four new coaches who've yet to lead Bears in competition from their current positions. Scott and Brandon Palmer are instructing the boys and girls soccer teams through their first week of practice, while Bryan Soukup is doing the same for the track squad after a long tenure as an assistant.
John Roan was set to lead his first Blair baseball team last year before the shutdown, while Matt Aschoff returns for his second full tennis season after missing out on duals and tournaments last spring.
For Scott, 2021 marks his first year as a high school head coach. He has coached Blair athletes, though, having led teams with the Blair Football Club for nearly a decade. Team chemistry and team building are at the heart of what he's working to accomplish with his Bears this week.
“It's not just running line to line,” Scott said Tuesday. “There's teamwork. There's encouragement.”
Though the BHS seniors were sophomores the last time they wore Blair colors on the field, the coach believes his squad is in good shape going into the season. There is a chemistry within the team even without a 2020 experience to build upon.
“We are extremely fortunate to have the group that we do,” Scott said. “Our juniors and seniors really have taken it upon themselves and made that part easy.”
The last time the Bears played a match, they were in a 2019 district final. The new coach doesn't believe his program is starting from scratch despite losing two senior classes since that loss in Crete.
“There's not really a rebuild, I would say,” Scott said. “I did not know what to expect, but these guys have been great.”
Among the Bears leading the charge during practice are Gabe Zurek and Shay Bailey. Both seniors earned time on the field as freshmen and sophomores.
“(Gabe's) leadership in, really, just getting this going, has been a huge, huge help to us,” Scott said. “He's kind of our go-to guy.”
The senior is pleased to be back focusing on high school soccer.
“It feels really good for me, personally,” Zurek said. “We didn't get to play last year and I think everyone's pretty ready to go this year. Ready to get back and playing.”
Scott believes Bailey's comfort as a defender has been productive during practice.
“He's been an outstanding asset to what we're doing on the field so far,” Scott said.
The senior is looking forward to squaring off against the opposition very soon.
“I'm just excited,” Bailey said. “We're looking good. We have people working hard during practice, so it's awesome.”
Scott has short-term and long-term goals for the Bears as they get back to competition. In the short term, he wants BHS to get off to a fast start. In the long term, he wants to be in the Class B discussion.
“We want to be relevant at districts,” the coach said.
Bailey and Zurek, meanwhile, have their own goals.
“Trying to make the team as good as I can,” the latter said.
“If our communication is good, we'll be great,” Bailey added before getting back to drill work with coach Kesling.