BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – It is rare when coaches go out on top of their game. But Kokomo High School girls soccer coach Myles Geary has 15 consecutive non-losing seasons; so, he had no choice but to go out on top once he made one of the toughest decisions of his life – leaving the program that he took from infancy to an NCC respected power.
“This was a very tough decision – one of my toughest ever. But the time commitment is simply too much,” said Geary, who recently accepted the sports sales manager position with the Greater Kokomo Visitors Bureau. “To be successful it needs to be an eight or nine month commitment, and that is really hard to do right now. My family has been great in dealing with soccer, but it is time for me to put back into them. As a father I have to reassess what is important to me. And the new job will keep me busy but will also keep me in the sports world.”
With a record of 183-103-6 (.627 winning percentage), Geary leaves the Lady Wildkats as the most successful coach in the program’s history. But in 1996, the program was young, unsuccessful and Geary was completing his third season at Western high school as an assistant boys soccer coach. But then KHS Athletic Director Jim Callane decided to take a chance on the 1989 Kokomo graduate. And what a choice that turned out to be. After a 5-11-2 record in his inaugural campaign of 1997, the program never again dipped below .500 under his watch. By his third season, Geary had the Lady Kats hoisting an IHSAA sectional championship trophy as the team tallied a 15-4 record.
“His knowledge of soccer, his ability to relate to kids and his enjoyment and being with student-athletes led to me hiring him,” said Callane while noting that Geary did not play high school soccer because it was only a club sport in 1988. “His enthusiasm and knowledge really closed the deal. Early on, we were just starting out and soccer was catching on, but high school coaches were hard to find because of the infancy of the program – so you really had to look for former players. Myles learned to play soccer in (Dallas) and when he was in the military. He just knew the game.”
According to Callane, the Wildkats started a soccer program in the late 1980’s as a recreational co-ed club sport. The IHSAA did not sanction soccer until 1994 and the North Central Conference followed suit in 1998. Geary took over a girls team that finished 1-15 and was outscored 120-11.
“When we went to boys and girls sports, Myles came in early and did a great job for us at Kokomo High School,” said Callane. “He brought our program to a level that was competitive in our conference and the IHSAA tournament. He made it fun for the kids. He was smart enough to recognize kids who were good athletes and got them involved. He was good at spotting those kids and recruiting them to the soccer program.”
During Geary’s 16 seasons of patrolling the Red and Blue sideline, the Lady Kats won eight sectional championships and one regional title in 2002. They also won five North Central Conference crowns and a prestigious Hoosier Cup division championship last season. The eight sectional and five NCC championships are both conference records. His eight sectional trophies account for nearly 12-percent of all Wildkat girls sectional championships in all sports.
In addition, Geary has coached an Indiana All-State First Team performer (Hillary Beck) and three All-State Second Team players (Whitney Beck, Samantha Bledsoe and Betsy Bixler). In addition, Sarah Schwartz, Jessica Carney, Casey Connor, Anne Thatcher, Whitney Farris, Becca Wade, Bre Kinder, Kristen Clason and Mary Lang were All-State Honorable Mention performers and more than 50 student-athletes were named to the all-North Central Conference teams.
“I really wanted to see what I could do at Kokomo,” said Geary of his 16 years at his alma mater. He is currently the second longest tenured coach at KHS behind distance running coach Ricke Stucker. “But I thought I might want to try my hand at the next level, and I had some really good offers from some big schools in Indianapolis. But when the thought of leaving the program, I just couldn’t do it. My goal was to stay five years and move up – but I bleed red and blue; it runs through my veins.”
Geary said he thanks the Kokomo administration – from Callane to Mike Wade to current Athletic Director Jason Snyder – for the support and what they have done for the Lady Kat soccer program. He said there are not many high schools that have tournament ready facilities like Kokomo’s two lighted playing fields and two practice fields. He said the Wildkat soccer complex is an envy of the Hoosier state.
“We went from practicing in basically a corn field and playing at the old downtown Kautz football field – which wasn’t wide enough or long enough (for a regulation high school soccer field) – to Jim Callane’s initiative of building a soccer complex,” said Geary. “It is a premier high school complex in the state. And I constantly told that to the girls – we were spoiled.”
The soccer buff said he enjoyed his 16 years of coaching the Lady Kats, and was thrilled to be on the early side of the program’s growth into a perennial conference and sectional contender.
“I got to see a lot of growth in the program and I was proud to have been a small part of it,” he said. “We had a soft schedule when we started, and so we weren’t prepared when we got to sectionals. So we took off some guaranteed victories and put in some almost guaranteed losses against state powers. One year, we had seven top 25 teams on our schedule, but we sure were ready when conference and sectionals came up. We became competitors.”
Snyder said replacing Geary will be difficult, not only because of his longevity in the program, but his knowledge of the game itself.
“You know, one thing we will miss is his working with the younger kids and being able to get them involved,” said Snyder, noting that the middle schools now have a soccer team due in part to Geary’s insistence. “The girls soccer team always got off the fall sports season to a good start. They were always competitive under Myles. For years, he has put a ton of time in and sacrificed a lot for these student-athletes. He demands a lot but truly cares for them – you can tell because they keep coming back and wanting to be involved in the program.”
To say Geary will be missed at Kokomo High School is a vast understatement. Sure, he can be replaced, but losing a coach with his winning credentials will be hard shoes to fill. Myles Geary may have arrived as an unheralded coach, but he leaves as the best soccer coach the school has ever seen.