Former legendary Granite City soccer coach Gene Baker headed the Blackburn men’s and women’s programs for eight years.
After a long career as coach for the Granite City High School boys’ and girls’ soccer teams, Gene Baker got a new job in 2001.
Baker took over the Blackburn College men’s and women’s soccer programs. He coached the NCAA Division III school in Carlinville for eight years.
“Blackburn was a nice experience for me,” Baker said. “I had some open heart surgery, so I would prefer to still be coaching. It was a tough run. It’s an hour there and an hour back. It gets a little tough running back and forth.”
Still, Baker turned in a successful run as Blackburn soccer coach. He became the winningest coach for both men and women’s programs and earned a pair of St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year awards.
The accomplishments helped Baker earn a spot on the Blackburn College Athletic Hall of Fame. He received a plaque during the Hall of Fame ceremony in September.
Baker is one of 48 members on the Blackburn Hall of Fame, established in 1989.
“I ran both programs at the same time, men and women,” Baker said. “I had some good Granite City girls and some good Granite City guys. The head men’s coach played for me and the head women’s coach played for me. They’re both young guys who are going to do a good job. They’re good hard-working smart guys.”
Rob Steinkuehler is Blackburn’s men’s soccer coach and Tim Gould heads the women’s program. Steinkuehler, of Jerseyville, played at Blackburn from 2005-2008 and was a three-time letter winner and a two-time MVP with the team. Gould, of Highland, played at Blackburn from 2001-2004 and was a four-year starter on defense.
Gould helped the Beavers finish in the top four in the SLIAC three times, including in 2003, when Blackburn was second to Fontbonne at 10-2-2.
“He brought a great amount of knowledge about the game,” Gould said of Baker. “He’s a great friend to all of his players now and he was great at motivating and pointing us in the right direction.”
Baker earned the SLIAC Men’s Soccer Coach of the Year in 2003. Two years before, Baker earned the conference’s Women’s Soccer Coach of the Year honors after coaching the Beavers to an 11-9 mark, the school’s first winning season in program history.
During Baker’s tenure at Blackburn, the Beavers had several players from Granite City who earned all-league honors, including Annie McAteer and Katelyn Nonn.
Baker earned his fifth Hall of Fame award. He’s also a member of the Granite City Sports Hall of Fame.
Before heading to Blackburn, Baker coached the Granite City boys’ soccer program from 1973-1999 and won 514 matches and 9 state championships. He took over girls’ soccer coaching duties in 1988 and led the Warriors to three top-four state tournament finishes.
Last fall, the Blackburn soccer programs handed out the Gene Baker award, which was named after the legendary coach. The award is given to a player who represents the team in a positive manner through sportsmanship, leadership and competitiveness. Shane Rogers, a Granite City graduate, was the male recipient in 2014.