Despite unseasonably warm January temperatures, about 30 young men stayed inside the Fred E. Davis Multipurpose Center gym for State Fair men’s soccer’s first workout in more than a decade.
After a couple hours of drills and light scrimmaging, newly recommended head coach Eddie Horn — a title pending approval of SFCC Board of Trustees Tuesday — left the prospective students with a promise.
“I will not fail,” Horn said. “We will be good.”
Many of the potential athletes came away with a good impression of the longtime soccer coach.
Gire Ngezhayo, a Centralia senior from Tanzania, Africa, emphasized the good impression Horn left.
“He’s a really good coach,” Ngezhayo said. “He knows what he’s doing, where he’s going. He’s a really good coach.”
Zach Brooks, a senior at Jefferson City who played under Horn, said he was an honest coach.
“He’s straight-up with you for sure,” Brooks said. “He’ll tell you what you need to do and he’s always going to be fair with you.”
Santiago Gonzalez, 19, had not played organized soccer since ninth grade, but enjoyed Sunday’s opportunity to work out in front of coaches.
“I came here and played hard,” Gonzalez said. “To show them who I really am.
“I could see myself playing here.”
Horn, 51, graduated from Smith-Cotton in 1983. He played soccer for one year at Alabama-Birmingham before transferring to Missouri Southern.
After two years as an assistant for Smith-Cotton soccer, Horn returns to Sedalia after 26 years at Jefferson City Public Schools.
He said he was excited to commence a process in reintroducing the State Fair Roadrunners soccer program.
“For me, personally, I’m a real process guy,” Horn said. “I really enjoy grabbing a group of players, forming that team, imprinting a style of play, and going to go play and then see what we can do. The process for me is very enjoyable. It was fun to get some players in here.”
Horn draws from many wells of coaching knowledge. He cites Terry Michler, 900-win coach at CBC High School, and Tommy Howe of Sporting St. Louis as influences. Horn also has international connections with Jan Pruijn with the Dutch national team and worked with West Ham United through an Umbro USA program.
“I don’t feel like I’ve ever stopped this journey of learning more about the craft or the sport and the delivery of how we want to do things,” Horn said. “And then I’ve been very fortunate at different periods of my career to get connected with people that were truly world-class.”
But, as a high school coach, Horn had limited say in the talent fielded. He offered a metaphor to illustrate his enthusiasm to finally coach players he personally recruited.
“The opportunity to take 28 years (of coaching), and then go shopping for the groceries myself and make dinner with it, is extremely exciting,” Horn said.
While Sunday was a proverbial day one for State Fair soccer, Horn faces another inaugural workout as the coach of the upcoming women’s program. He started the girls program in Jefferson City, but has never coached both programs in the same season.
Horn said he is currently most focused on accumulating players, especially on the women’s side, and said he hopes to schedule a workout for the women’s team in the next two weeks.
“The real challenge, initially, is that we’re about six to eight months behind recruiting,” Horn said. “The women’s game is extremely competitive for players. I really don’t coach the game any differently … The brand, the style, the training, it all goes together.
“My biggest thing now is, we’ve just got to get players and then we can kind of really get going.”
State Fair Community College suspended the soccer program for the 2002-03 academic year after an administrative investigation revealed information suggesting player eligibility breaches. Considering the program’s history, Horn said he is focused on clean, meticulous administrative work — scheduling games and practices, and transportation, along with reserving equipment and facilities — during the Roadrunners’ second chance.
“The things we can control, we want to be first-class with,” Horn said.
Since their approval in December, State Fair Roadrunner and Lady Roadrunner soccer — as well as baseball and softball — are projects practically at square one. Horn said he is embracing the challenge of cultivating a winning program from scratch.
“I’ve waited 28 years,” Horn said. “We’ll make sure that we’re good.”
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2