Ryne Eich couldn’t have been happier when Nitro High School opened practice this week.
Sure, the first-year boys soccer coach is staring at a rebuilding job after the Wildcats turned in a four-win season last year, but that doesn’t dampen the former player’s enthusiasm for coming back home to land his “dream job” and learning the ropes alongside his father, John Eich, who’s his assistant coach.
Ryne Eich, who played for Nitro from 2005-2008, will be tackling his first job as a varsity coach at any level, but he’ll have his father, who introduced him to the game at 5 years old and coached him throughout his athletic career in various sports, to lean on for support. The Eichs’ roots run deep at Nitro as Ryne’s younger brother, Evan, was an all-state player from 2009-12.
“I’ve always wanted to coach soccer,’’ said Ryne Eich, who also landed a teaching position at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Cross Lanes, Nitro’s feeder school.
“Originally I was going to wait a few years and get comfortable teaching, then Nitro, my dream soccer job, opened up so I had to get it. It’s where I wanted to be. Once I decided I wanted to go into teaching and coaching I always wanted [my father] to be my assistant coach and this has worked out perfectly.’’
“Ryne said, ‘Just hang around and one day you can be my assistant,’ ’’ laughed John Eich, who is beginning his sixth season as an assistant at Nitro. “It worked out that way. I’m just enjoying every day. This is my third coach and this is my last coach. He’s planning on being here a long time. I don’t have as long a time as he does but I’ll be around a while.’’
John Eich said his son is growing into the head coaching position with each practice.
“I can really see he’s gaining more and more confidence every day,’’ said John Eich. “Someone told me once that when they watched him teach, that was what he was meant to do.
“It’s always been teach and coach. That’s just what he’s meant to do. I know how he is with kids. He’s patient. I can kind of help to bring him along where he can just coach right now and I can ease him into eventually taking everything over. I have full faith in what he’s doing.’’
The father and son haven’t had a chance to differ on opinions yet since the season doesn’t officially begin until Aug. 22.
“It’s an interesting dynamic,’’ smiled Ryne Eich. “He knew more of the players than I did because he’s been here for a few years. He probably does more of the talking right now. We share ideas about different players, what we think and how they can improve.’’
“They all know who’s in charge,’’ John Eich said of Nitro’s players. “I told them, ‘You all know what I think, but you don’t know what ‘Coach’ thinks. He’s sitting here analyzing and when the time comes to put a lineup together he’s the one that you should worry about. He’s the one that’s going to put the lineup on the field. He’s the one making those decisions.’ We’ll talk, but it’s ultimately his decision.’’
Ryne Eich is optimistic about this year’s Wildcats because of a talented freshman class, one that captured the Kanawha County Middle School championship as seventh graders then went undefeated last year during the regular season before losing in the county tournament.
“Some of them you can tell have the heart and desire and go out and give it all that they’ve got,’’ said the Nitro head coach.
“They’ve beaten some of the upperclassmen when we do runs and different things. Some of them have really good foot skills and take shots that are rip shots. It might take a few years to get all the way back and get it where we want it to be.’’
It will be a journey that father and son will take together.
“I get three months with my son,’’ John Eich said of spending the season with Ryne. “It doesn’t get much better.’’
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.