EDWARDS — Happy No. 200, Cope, and many more.
And, boy, can irony be very ironic as the Battle Mountain soccer coach’s 200th win as the head of the school’s boys’ team came against Glenwood Springs on Thursday night. Cope talked about how this is the result of all the hard work of his players through the years, but, just like Eagle Valley’s John Ramunno, the dean of all coaches in the county in terms of continuous service, this soccer coach and history teacher has the memory of an elephant.
The Demons drubbed the Huskies, 9-0, in 1993, Cope’s first season as a head coach. And 10 years ago in Glenwood Springs, Cope, the most unlikely of candidates for a suspension, was suspended by CHSAA for pulling his JV team off the field against the Demons.
As Cope has often said to me about my job as a sports writer, “You validate their success by documenting their failures.”
There has been a lot more positive than negative in the 20-plus years Cope has been directing the Huskies from the sideline, most notably last year’s 20-0 state-title campaign. Two-hundred wins is not only a number signifying longevity, but excellence. Colorado high school teams play 15 games per regular season. That’s 304 regular season games in the coach’s career, plus playoff games (dating back to 1998), and that means Cope’s teams have been winning nearly two-thirds of their games, all the more remarkable given that he and the Huskies had some very dry years from 1993-97.
But as trite as it sounds, it’s not just the wins, the league titles and the playoff runs that define Cope. Whether it’s the soccer pitch or the classroom, he’s a teacher.
His legacy remains his students.
Kyle Moore, Class of 2006, got to know Cope through the Vail Valley Soccer Club and through the annual summer soccer camp up in Steamboat Springs. Come high school, Moore was a standout left-midfielder and went on to play Division I soccer at Denver University.
Moore now works for an information-technology company in Denver.
“When I think about Dave Cope, my experience definitely transcended the field and teaching me the Xs and Os of soccer,” he said. “I want to say I had three or four classes with him, and he took the same skills on the field to his classroom. When I was looking at choosing a college, I really started turning to Cope for not only where I should play, but what experience I was looking for. I felt like he did a great job centering my thoughts on the process and giving me perspective.”
Christian Espinoza in Battle Mountain soccer circles was the goalie of the state-title team last year, stoning opponents in shootouts, most notably against Evergreen during the quarterfinals.
He’s now attending Colorado Mountain College in Edwards and plans to transfer to Colorado Mesa University next year. He is the first from his family to go college.
“He helped me do a profile (for college applications),” Espinoza said. “Then we sat down and went through the different possibilities. Through him, a lot of coaches know me.”
David DeChant just graduated from Northwestern with a degree in journalism. He’s back home, conducting his job search and recently found a power-point presentation from one of his seasons with Cope.
DeChant was one of many star strikers for the Huskies. However, that carried no weight in the classroom.
“He pushed me pretty hard,” DeChant said. “Maybe, I kind of figured he was my coach, and I didn’t have to work my butt off. I struggled briefly, and started working harder.”
Just as DeChant was a great striker, the Huskies also tend to specialize in the center back on defense. Connor Tedstrom, Class of 2010, now a sophomore at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, after playing two years of junior hockey in Idaho, was one of Cope’s anchors.
Like a lot of Huskies’ alumni who graduated before the team went on to win state, Tedstrom knows what wonders Cope has worked on the pitch. Yet there are other things.
“I think what he’s done in the classroom is greater than what he’s done in soccer,” Tedstrom said. “I was talking here recently to someone, mentioning the effect of teachers like Cope on high school students. The life lessons I’ve learned from Cope are going to stick with me for the rest of my life.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.