Thirteen years after calling it a career at Kalamazoo College, former Kalamazoo College men’s soccer coach (and professor of German language literature) Hardy Fuchs ’68 is still calling shots on soccer sidelines.
This time however, the players are a little smaller and a lot younger.
The 73-year-old former chair of the German department now volunteers his time teaching 8-year-old boys the basics of the game of soccer on a grassy, unlined field in the shadows of K’s campus—meeting Monday nights throughout the summer.
“It’s tougher than coaching college players,” laughs Fuchs, who led the Hornets to 12 MIAA championships and a record of 343-137-36 during his 32-year career. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of it. Their world view is magical and their outlook on life is beautiful. They are so eager to learn.”
At each practice, the 1988 NCAA Great Lakes Regional Coach of the Year works on passing, dribbling and shooting with his aspiring soccer stars. He relies on the college playbook that helped take the Hornets to six NCAA III Tournament appearances for drills and activities.
“I simplify what I used to do for decades with the college players,” he says. “You have to reduce and adjust. What you think is simple isn’t necessarily simple in the eyes of an 8-year-old. Passing with the inside of your foot, for example, isn’t natural. Feet weren’t made to shoot and pass.”
And because it’s not natural, Fuchs not only takes the time to explain but also to demonstrate—taking to the field just like he did for more than three decades—to show the kids how it’s done.
“He makes it fun for the boys because you can see that he’s truly having fun himself,” says Sarah Willey, whose son Sam attends the summer soccer sessions. “Coach Hardy’s love for soccer is infectious. My son can’t wait to come to practice.”
Tracy Hausman, mom to 8-year-old Carter, agrees.
“With Coach Hardy, it doesn’t look like work,” she says. “He shows the kids that the game should be fun—that it’s okay to just play.”
Hausman, a volunteer soccer coach for her son’s team, met Fuchs last spring when his young granddaughter was on her team. He reached out to her and offered his assistance.
“He told me he had a ‘little bit of experience coaching soccer,’” Hausman laughs.
The young coach jumped at the opportunity to work with the legendary Fuchs, and they worked together at the weekly practices and Friday night games.
“The kids weren’t the only ones learning,” Hausman recalls. “I learned so much about how to be a better coach.”
When the season ended, Fuchs agreed to hold summer training sessions for Hausman’s team and anyone else who was looking to learn more about soccer.
And more they have certainly learned.
“From week to week, you can see that they have a better understanding of the game,” Fuchs says.
He won’t, however, take all of the credit.
“You cannot coach a team or a player,” he asserts. “You know that learning goes on, and you can be a part of it, but you can’t teach them. They must teach themselves. I see my function as a coach to be their shortcut to get-ting to the next level. I’m going to help them take the next step.”
Helping the kids get to the next level isn’t the only thing Fuchs is trying accomplish. He’s also teaching them a little bit about his own culture and his native country. Each practice session ends with Fuchs leading the boys in a traditional German soccer chant: “Zicke, Zacke, Zicke, Zacke, Hoi, Hoi, Hoi!”
The lively chant reinforces Fuchs’ goals of fun, camaraderie and sportsmanship.
And as long as he’s still having fun, you can bet you’ll continue to find Fuchs on the soccer sidelines somewhere.