Recently retired Battle Mountain teacher Dave Cope is stepping away from one of his coaching posts

Battle Mountain soccer coach David Cope talks with Marisa Ammaturo during a play-off game against Denver South in 2007. Cope will step down as the Huskies' girls soccer coach after a 20-year career.
Vail Daily archives

Beloved Battle Mountain teacher Dave Cope closed his social studies classroom door for the last time on Thursday. He also decided to hang up his coaching whistle — well, one of them at least.

Cope will retire from his position as the Huskies girls soccer head coach but will return to coach the boys this upcoming fall.

“I have had a great run in the classroom and value the time that I have spent with students in the classroom, but the timing is good to step away,” Cope stated. 

“I made the decision a few years ago, when this class was freshmen, that I would graduate with them.  I’ve been in schools my whole life and it’s time to explore another chapter.”

His decision to stay with the boys but not the girls was mostly about weather and logistics during the spring season.

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“I have loved coaching both boys and girls and it has been a blessing,” he explained in an email. “My wife, Kathleen and I have both worked at Vail Resorts for over 30 years and are looking forward to using these lifetime passes at some other resorts, visiting our kids and traveling a bit more. Staying on to coach both teams would have meant being tethered to the school year and limiting our ability to do things like that.”

Cope became the boys team head coach in 1993 and led them to an undefeated season and state title in 2012 as well as state runner-up finishes in 2016 and 2022. He took over the girls program — launched by Hillary Fiveash, once a Cope assistant — from Kate O’Connor in 2004. In his first season, the Huskies went 9-5-2 overall and finished second in the league — an identical storyline 20 years later — as Cope won the 4A Western Slope Coach of the Year award. Battle Mountain ended its 2023 campaign with a 9-5-2 overall record and finished second in the 4A Western Slope with a 6-2-2 league mark.

All told, in 19 seasons (2020 was canceled), he went 206-84-16, winning eight league titles, claiming 10 playoff wins, and leading the Huskies to two state quarterfinals. Over his tenure, Cope said his coaching style has evolved some, but certain parts have remained consistent.

“There is no sense in ever getting mad at an athlete for being bad at a sport. Our job is to coach them up,” he said, adding that effort has always been assumed in the Battle Mountain program.

“Playing time is the currency of coaches, we spend it on the things we value, which include effort, commitment, ability and competitiveness.”  

Even though Cope can be a numbers guy, his legacy goes well beyond wins and losses.

“At the end of the season and as the weeks, months, years and decades go by, we hope that the relationships that were formed are more meaningful than the scoreboard,” he said.  

“I learned so much from him both as a coach and as a mentor,” Claire Krueger, a 2019 graduate, stated.

“My times with the Battle Mountain soccer team were some of my favorite memories by far and having a wonderful team coached by Cope made it how it was.”

Krueger recalled her coach instilling a genuine passion for soccer amongst his pupils; a common phrase heard at practice was, “Have fun and enjoy the game.”

“He always told us that you just need to go play the game, wherever you are — whether it’s on vacation or in a different country — just go play and ask to join in with others!” she continued. “He taught us to love the game.”  

When asked if any memories stick out with the girls team, Cope said, “There are so many stories that it is hard to highlight one or two.”

Cope called coaching his daughter, Emily, a joy — “mostly” — and he cherished the chance to connect with her friends.

“Navigating the coach-daughter relationship was quite an experience,” Emily said. “Most of the time it was fantastic, however, there were a few moments more challenging than others.”

Emily Cope, right, went from playing under her dad at Battle Mountain to the NCAA Division I ranks at Southern Methodist University.
Dominque Taylor | Daily file photo |

During her freshman season, the team found itself down 3-1 against a struggling Delta team. The admittedly overconfident first-year player felt the Huskies could benefit from a lineup shift and shouted to her dad from midfield, “We need four in the back!”

Cope replied — using a tone Emily described as being reserved for her or her brother only when they really messed up — “if you have coaching suggestions, then you can get off the field, go back to the bus, and think about them!” Battle Mountain went on to win thanks to a late goal from Taylor Denning.

“And we did it with three in the back,” Emily Cope noted. “To the surprise of nobody, he tends to be right about those things.” She might be following in her dad’s footsteps soon.

“Despite my efforts to refrain from it, I’m finding that I’m starting to get an inkling for coaching myself,” the former Southern Methodist University player said before quoting from Bruce Springsteen’s “The River.”

“It’s best to end any story about my dad with a Bruce lyric,” she continued. “I’ll leave you with, ‘I come from down in the valley where mister, when you’re young they bring you up to do like your daddy done.”

Cope said he also enjoyed watching some of his former players become coworkers in education, such as Erika Gilbert (Ghent) and Ali Bender (O’Neil).

Gilbert remembers Cope handing her a newspaper article of a girl who was playing soccer and ski racing at Middlebury and trying to persuade her to do the same.

“I loved soccer, but he always knew skiing was the sport I was more committed to,” she said. “Even still, he supported me in all of my athletic endeavors.”

After thirty years in one building, Cope has taught current coaches, like T.J. Simpson and a state senator in Kerry Donovan. He’s even seen players from both of his teams end up marrying one another, as was the case with Morgan Wallace and Tyler Cole and Sean Reynolds and Ashley MacDonald.

“I’m starting to teach some of the children of students that I’ve had,” he said. “Kathleen and I were discussing how it’s been some long days but some fast years and even faster decades. It’s been a strange and wonderful journey.”

Gilbert can attest to the fact that with every class that has come through Battle Mountain, Cope has always known what was going on in the building — from choir concerts to basketball games.

“He pays attention to the things that make each of us as individuals tick,” she said.

“He’s committed to more than just U.S. history and soccer. He’s committed to kids and making them feel seen and valued.”

From here on out, grading papers will be replaced by time spent swinging his golf clubs, lingering over coffee, reading or hiking with Kathleen and their dog, Murphy. Cope is excited for all of it.

“I have no idea what the next chapter holds, but I am looking forward to it,” he said.

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