The SLUH Jr. Billiken’s hosted a Jamboree Thursday that featured a pair of Class 3 programs. Playing on the newly laid turf at Drury Plaza, Bob O’Connell and his players got their first introduction to outside competition together. Named Head Coach earlier this year, O’Connell replaces Charlie Martel ’73, who retired from a 25-year career as head soccer coach.
PURCHASE PHOTOS at this Gallery – SLUH Jamboree with Parkway West and MICDS
INTERVIEW WITH BOB O’CONNELL (edited, listen to full interview below)
Ole: Okay, first thing we’re going to do is a new coaching head coach over at SLUH. Introduce yourself.
Bob: Starting my 16th year at SLUH. I teach American history here.
Ole: You’ve got four years of head coaching behind you through a recently.
Bob: Absolutely. It was a great experience. I was at Kennedy for three years and last year at Parkway North. The varsity game experience, making decisions, dealing with opponents. The experience was very valuable and I think it’s prepared me well for this opportunity
Ole: You spent a number of years here on the JV staff.
Bob: I think for nine, 10 years I was on Charlie’s staff as B team coach. He gave me all kinds of freedom. I worked closely with Charlie (Martell) and Charlie (Clark) and we talked daily. They were both great mentors for me and those guys have helped me get to this point.
Ole: You’re coming in new to this team because you left before these kids came into the JV. Right?
Bob: Some of these kids I have in class and other kids, I don’t know. That was one of my first tasks when I got this job. I tried to meet with as many kids as possible and I think I met maybe 50 kids in the school year and then we had our camp and that was one of the goals to see every kid. Learn every kid’s name started with the juniors and seniors and then the sophomores. It’s a unique situation here. How many kids we have involved in the soccer program. The varsity had, I think we had 57 or 59 kids at our tryout and that’s juniors and seniors. e 29 sophomores that went out for the B team and there were 60 freshmen. So there’s a lot of places, much different then at Parkway North and Kennedy where we barely had enough for a team. So that is a difference, we’re in a lucky position that kids want to come here and play soccer.
Ole: Martell had 20 seniors on his squad last year. There are four players that return.
Bob: Yeah. that is a unique challenge. If I remember correctly, only two really saw time last year in the varsity matches. So we’ve got a lot of new kids. I took for sophomores and juniors with nine seniors. There was a little nervousness tonight if you watched it and we talked about that in between the two games. So it’s a unique challenge that we have, but hopefully by the schedule we play by mid-September, we can’t say that anymore.
Ole: Maybe after the CBC tournament where you can start pulling things together.
Bob: Yeah, that’d be great. You know, a lot of these first games, you know, this Jamboree was good just to kind of see it, when we make mistakes as coaches you think of it one way or maybe that doesn’t work.
Ole: Besides playing at CBC in their tournament, will you be doing CYC or anything else?
Bob: Yes to the CYC Tournament. We’ve got a game where we will travel to play Blue Valley Northwest in October and then go see the Sporting KC match. A team event we’re excited about. We’ve got St Xavier from Louisville coming along with Glendale from Springfield for our Labor Day Tournament. it’ll be a test, it will be hard for our kids, but hopefully, it makes us better for the end of the season. Well, look forward to it.
Ole: Congratulations again.
Bob: Thank you so much.
LISTEN to my interview with Head Coach Bob O’Connell
A graduate of DeSmet Jesuit, O’Connell played on the Spartans state championship-team in 1997 before his college career at Saint Louis University from 1998-2001. His coaching experience includes 10 years on SLUH’s B-team before he moved to a three year at Kennedy High School (three-time conference champions, and two-time AAA Conference Coach of the Year) before the school closed. He spent 2017 as the Head Coach at Parkway North.