Photo by Theo Tate
Kenny Jackson talks to his players during a practice in August. Jackson is one of 41 former Granite City players who have coached in the high school and collegiate levels.
After eight years, Kenny Jackson is enjoying his time as a member of the Granite City boys’ soccer coaching staff.
“I really enjoyed working with the kids and knowing the kids and I put in a lot of time with the Elks and the youth program,” the second-year Granite City head coach said. “We had a good turnout in our summer camp. We had about 90 kids out there, so that’s the first time in a long time that has happened. It’s something I’m passionate about. Granite City gave me a lot through soccer. I was able to go on a college scholarship and earn my degree and I feel like I can have something to offer to give back to the community.”
Jackson is one of 41 former Granite City players who have coached soccer in the high school and college levels.
During the summer, former legendary GCHS soccer coach Gene Baker researched the former GCHS players who have been coaching soccer.
“It was in my head,” Baker said. “I did it for about two days. I follow my players pretty closely. Most of them come to see me a lot.”
Baker coached the Granite City boys’ soccer program from 1973-1999 and won 514 matches and nine state championships. Jackson was a sophomore in Baker’s final season as GCHS head coach.
Jackson graduated from GCHS in 2002. He helped the Warriors win the Southwestern Conference championship in his junior season and earned all-conference honors during his senior year.
Jackson is one of several former GCHS players who are currently coaching soccer. The others include: Mike Bristol, Jay Robertson, Jason Mathenia, Craig Dippel, Kenny Prazma, Jared Embick, John Van Buskirk, Tony Pierce and GCHS assistant coaches Barry Grote and Andrew Crider.
Jackson was hired to become the head coach at his alma mater in 2014 after being assistant coach for several years. He said his goal as coach is to prepare his players for the future.
“I want to provide the kids in Granite City an opportunity to show that they can play soccer and move on to college and get a college scholarship,” Jackson said. “If each of them individually takes on that challenge, then that will benefit the program and benefit the team. It’s all about playing quality good soccer and giving our kids the best opportunity to win.”
Mathenia, who played on the GCHS boys’ soccer team that won state titles in 1989 and 1990, is head coach of the Columbia boys’ and Belleville West girls’ soccer teams. Last year, he coached Columbia to its first state championship.
Robertson is Alton’s boys’ soccer coach and Dippel is the head girls’ soccer coach at O’Fallon.
Prazma is the current GCHS girls’ soccer coach. He took over head coaching duties in 2012, a year after the Warriors won their first state championship.
Bristol, Embick, Pierce and Van Buskirk are coaching in the college level. Bristol is the assistant coach for the Florida State women’s soccer team that won its first national championship last fall. Embick is in his third season as Akron head coach, Pierce is the head women’s soccer coach at Wisconsin Lutheran College and Van Buskirk is in his first season as head men’s soccer coach at McKendree.
Baker said he’s thrilled to find out that a large number of Granite City players have coached soccer.
“I think the idea of giving back to the game and whatever is a tribute to the kind of athletes that we have,” Baker said. “You’ve got to have ability, work ethic and attitude. This really reflects the attitude.”
Baker said there were also numerous former GCHS players who coached in the club levels.
“I want to give a special congratulations and thanks in gratitude to the many former players who have gone on to coach in the select and academy programs,” Baker said. “There were many.”
From player to coach
Former Granite City soccer players who have coached soccer in the high school and collegiate levels:
1. Kurt Atkinson (Alton)
2. Charles Bennington (Granite City)
3. Skip Birdsong (Granite City)
4. Jamey Bridges (Columbia)
5. Gene Briggs (Granite City and Madison)
6. Mike Bristol (Florida State University)
7. Randy Chapman (Edwardsville)
8. Andrew Crider (Granite City)
9. Vince Darnell (University of Missouri-Rolla)
10. Randy DeRousse (Evanston)
11. Craig Dippel (O’Fallon)
12. Jared Embick (University of Akron)
13. David Fernandez (Bellarmine University)
14. Jamie Gavilsky (Southwestern Illinois College)
15. Jay Gensert (Southwestern Illinois College)
16. Barry Grote (Granite City)
17. Jeff Hayes (Granite City and Alton)
18. Tim Henson (Granite City)
19. Kenny Jackson (Granite City)
20. David James (Illinois State University)
21. Craig Kessler (University of Evansville)
22. Chad Lignoul (Southwestern Illinois College)
23. Matt Loftus (Alton)
24. Marc Mason (Belleville East and Granite City)
25. Jason Mathenia (Columbia and Belleville West)
26. Justin MacMillian (CBC)
27. Troy Moore (Florida)
28. Brad Peach (Granite City)
29. Shawn Petroski (Wesclin)
30. Tony Pierce (Wisconsin Lutheran College)
31. Phil Popmarkoff (Granite City)
32. Greg Powderly (Cape Girardeau Central)
33. Tim Powderly (Cape Girardeau Central)
34. Kenny Prazma (Granite City)
35. Jay Robertson (Alton)
36. Chris Ryan (Springfield College)
37. Adam Sanchez (Southwestern Illinois College)
38. Mark Schwarzkopf (Edwardsville)
39. Tony Segobiano (Columbia)
40. John Van Buskirk (McKendree)