Knowing he wanted to become a head soccer coach after graduating from college, Drew Baker, a 2001 Moline graduate, remained open to whatever path would take him there.|
The ultimate destination came with a caveat.
Hired three years ago as the girls' soccer coach at Kenosha (Wis.) Indian Trail High School, Baker had his first head varsity gig in a profession he always wanted.
Adding to the initial intrigue was his becoming the first hire in program history.Baker's first season was Indian Trail's first year as a high school.
"I was very excited," Baker said. "I got to start a program from nothing. Every decision and everything was my way, which I enjoyed. I got to do things I feel could prepare the girls for the most success."
From the moment he accepted the position, he felt no pressure. An assistant at Kenosha Tremper High School and a four-year letterwinner at nearby Carthage College, Baker knew the area and believed he had the experience needed to accept this endeavor.
With that in mind, he attacked the job with enthusiasm.
"I went into it full-force," said Baker, the 2000 Boys' Soccer Player of the Year for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. "I wanted to build it from scratch. It wasn't an immediate varsity (job), but it was going to be my program."
A population surge in the area required Indian Trail to go from an academy school to a comprehensive one. When it first opened in 2010, the school housed only freshman with a new class entering each year. As of now, three grade levels attend Indian Trail.
Up until this season, the girls' soccer program competed solely at the junior-varsity level.
"If you're thorough and organized at the beginning, it makes it easier," Baker said. "I set my expectations from the get-go. It hasn't changed since then."
Given the chance to leave his footprint on the program, he had support from the administration to create goals and expectations. From the start, Baker, a physical education teacher at Mahone Middle School, made sure there was an open line of communication with the coaching staff, administration and parents.
Over the next two seasons, the program took the right steps to ensure it would be ready for its transition to the varsity level. Baker remained patient throughout the process, believing his way would get results.
The first step in encountering immediate varsity progress was constructing a schedule that would make Indian Trail competitive at the start. One of the first calls to do that went to Moline coach Rick Sanchez.
Baker wanted his team to compete in Moline's State Line Challenge.
For the team, it is a quality tournament as postseason nears. For Baker, it is a homecoming.
"It's awesome," said Baker, whose team meets Moline in its tournament opener on Friday night. "So many of my family and friends still live in Moline and are planning to come. I get to coach against one of my mentors (Rick Sanchez). It's going to be very interesting to look across and see them.
"I can't wait."
Besides a return to the Quad-Cities, he can watch his team take another step during their inaugural season. Entering today, the Hawks have a 5-2-1 record.
"I'm extremely proud of my girls. They've worked so hard," Baker said. "With each game, we're getting better."
Friday offers another test. In Baker's mind, a victory is all that matters.This program certainly has special meaning to him.
Nothing can shake that.
"This is my baby," Baker said. "I want to see us do some damage and make some noise."
Baker is the one who started it all.