Gladiators garner Coach of the Year and Player of the Year honors
GLADSTONE - It's been quite a year for Gladstone High School boys soccer coach Tyler Lewis and Gladstone senior co-captain Jason Southmayd.
Last fall the Gladiator boys soccer team earned a share of a league title for the first time since 1986, and the team advanced to the state final for only the second time in school history.
The state's Class 4A high school boys soccer coaches last month honored both Lewis and Southmayd for their contributions to the Gladiators' success by naming them the Class 4A boys soccer 'Coach' and 'Player of the Year.'
Lewis also received the Coach of the Year honor in 2004, when a Gladiator boys soccer team reached a state soccer final for the first time.
'In the 11 years I've coached, Jason's the best all-around soccer player I've seen at this level,' said Lewis. 'He's always working on his game and he's got a tremendous amount of natural ability….
'One of the most impressive things about Jason is how versatile he is. The things he does with a soccer ball are amazing. He can defend. He's a better distributor than a scorer, but he's the guy we go to when the game's on the line and we need a goal. And when the situation arises where we need someone to mark a top player, he can do that as well.'
Southmayd is only the second Gladstone High athlete in school history to have earned a boys soccer state 'player of the year' honor. Joey Leonetti was named player of the year in 1987.
At that time, all Oregon high schools competed in one state high school tournament. In 1987, Leonetti's senior year, Gladstone lost to Jesuit 2-1 in the second round. In 1986, Gladstone lost to Jesuit 2-1 in the semifinals. Jesuit went on to win the state title both years.
The past season was Lewis' eighth as Gladstone's head coach, and the turnaround in Gladstone's program during his tenure has been pretty remarkable.
Gladstone's varsity boys soccer teams were a combined 0-28 the two seasons before Lewis took charge.
Over the past five seasons his Gladstone teams have gone 53-23-8, advancing to postseason play all five seasons, advancing to the state final in 2004 and 2007, and to the quarterfinals in 2006.
Gladstone's accomplishments this past season are all the more impressive because the Gladiators were successful despite fielding a team on which Southmayd was the only year-round soccer player.
Lewis, 31, says he hasn't missed a year playing or coaching soccer since he began playing the sport in Oregon City at age 5.
And it was his passion for the sport that landed him the coaching job at Gladstone.
'I was coaching at Portland Christian,' said Lewis. 'I lived in Gladstone and I'd stop by on my way home and watch Gladstone play. They'd lost every game for two years and guys were getting sent off. It was heartbreaking to see the sport I loved getting tarnished.'
Lewis made a phone call to Gladstone's athletic director, and the next thing he knew, he was hired to take charge of rebuilding the Gladiator program.
Lewis says his plan for turning the program around included three major components:
'The first was discipline. The second was for them to believe in my system, with players playing different roles, but every player contributing in some way. And the very last thing was teaching them how to win. Getting them to play hard for 80 minutes, and getting them to the point where they not only believe they can win, but where they expect to win.'
Southmayd says that there's another factor behind the Gladiator success story. It's Lewis himself, and the way he treats his players.
'He's a really dedicated coach,' Southmayd said. 'He's there for us 24-7. When he's trying to teach us something, instead of just telling us about it, he'll go out there and show us.
'He's a talented player himself, and he's a great friend, which makes us respect him. We know that if we listen to him and try to do what he tells us, we're going to get better.'
And Southmayd says that Lewis spends a great deal of time with his players away from the sport of soccer:
'We go out to dinner a lot. Sometimes we go over to his house and hang out - watch a game, play pool, play poker. His wife cooks great food….
We go to Timbers games a lot.'
And once a year, every season, Lewis hangs out with the entire team on a beach retreat, where the team takes a break from soccer, just hanging out together.
'The first thing the kids ask when they show up at [summer] camp is, 'When is the beach trip?'' said Lewis. 'They want to make sure they keep that weekend open.'
Lewis, who is a devout Christian, also invites his players to attend a service at his church, Faith Evangelical in Oak Grove. He says he doesn't push his faith, but he extends an invitation and leaves the door open. This past season, he says, every player on his varsity team showed up at at least one church service.
'My number one thing with the kids is the relationship I have with them,' said Lewis. 'If you're going to ask kids to go into battle, you've got to have a relationship with them.'
Lewis had plenty of success playing soccer in his youth. He is a graduate of Portland Christian High School, where he garnered Class 3A/2A/1A first-team all-state honors his senior year. That year his high school team lost to eventual state champion Hidden Valley in the state semifinals. Hidden Valley went on to beat La Salle in the final.
Lewis lives in Gladstone with his wife, Kari [Eymann] Lewis, and their three children - Dominick, age 6; Brianna, 4; and Isaac, 4 months.
Lewis said of the 2007 Coach of the Year honor: 'It's pretty exciting! It's definitely an honor any time you get recognized by your peers.'
Southmayd said of his selection as 2007 Class 4A Player of the Year:
'I was really excited [when I found out about it]! I wasn't expecting to receive that honor. There are so many great players out there.'
Southmayd, a 3.4 student who plans a career in nursing, said he as yet undecided about where he will attend college.
'Hopefully I'll be able to get a scholarship offer,' he said. 'Even if it doesn't lead to a pro career, it will help pay for school. And [playing soccer] is something I love to do.'
Southmayd has been around soccer most of his life. His brother Josh was a member of the Gladstone High team that made the state soccer final in 2004, and their father coached both boys when they were younger.
Southmayd was Gladstone's top scorer during the past season, with 18 goals and 20 assists, as the Gladiators outscored opponents 69-19 en route to a 14-2-2 record.
Gladstone lost to defending state champion McLoughlin in the 2007 state final, 1-0.
'It would have been nice to have won,' said Southmayd. 'But it was a lot of fun anyway.'