The Vinton 14U champs with coaches Cal and Megan Rickels.

The AYSO soccer season ended with a spectacular success for Vinton youth teams, which came home with five 1st place trophies.

Vinton coaches and championship teams included Danielle Phippen (10u girls), Josh Griffith (12u girls), Brenda Bartz (14u girls), Megan Rickels (14u boys), and Jason Walker (10u boys).

Vinton players compete in the AYSO region that includes teams from Cedar Rapids, Marion, Anamosa, Mt. Vernon and other area towns.

The weekend also marked two milestones for Vinton coaches: It was the last game for long-time boys coaches Cal and Megan Rickels, who will be spending future seasons cheering on their sons as they compete at the high school level. That weekend also marked the 20th anniversary of girls coach Danielle Phippen’s role in Iowa’s very first high school state champion soccer team.

Coach Megan and Coach Danielle say the weekend is a great sign for the future of Vinton and Vinton-Shellsburg soccer programs.

Coach Danielle Phippen and the 10U girls champs.

They also shared some thoughts about how they became involved in the sport at different levels, and the importance of coaches and parents in developing the skills and sportsmanship essential to success.

Soccer was a huge part of my life growing up,” says Danielle, who coached the 10U team that gave up just one goal in winning first place in the tourney at the beginning of June.

Danielle started playing in a co-ed league when she was very young.

At 10, I joined a club team and also played in the ODP (Olympic Development Program) for the state of Iowa. My high school team consisted of many of the same girls from my club team and many of them I am still in contact with today. These friendships we made will last a lifetime.”

In 1998, Danielle’s Bettendorf High School team became the first Iowa high school State Champion. Danielle was among the players interviewed for a 20-year anniversary story in the Quad City Times.

The 10U boys champs.

Now, Danielle sees the same love of soccer in her daughters that she felt as a child.

I love that my girls are involved in soccer. All three of them have been playing since they were 4 years old. I also absolutely love that I have had the privilege to coach all three of them at some point. I love watching their love of the game and watching them grow as a player and a person,” she says.

Two of Danielle’s daughters were old enough for this year’s tournament.

The AYSO playoff tournament is for age groups U10 and older,” she explains. “So just Lainey and Addy got to participate in them this year; Hayden is still too young. I coached Lainey’s U10 team.”

Before the game, Danielle gave each player a card with a personal message written just for them. “Before they read their card, they each read a word or phrase on the back of the card and these words described our team: composed, confident, dedicated, determined, don’t stop, smart thinking, strong, and 110% effort. These girls are all of these – and this is why our team played in the championships for 1st place. This team also displayed good sportsmanship, which is hard to find anymore.”

Danielle hopes to keep coaching in the future, and thanked the parents and parent-coaches who are helping to make the Vinton program a success.

The 12U girls champs with coach Josh Griffiith.

Parents who support not only their child, but also their child’s coach are amazing,” she says. “For those who have never coached, many don’t realize how much time you spend away from the field prepping for practices and games, or sending reminder emails or texts. It is always appreciated when parents or athletes go out of their way to thank you for your time.”

All-day clinics and on-line coaching lessons

Coach Megan, however, came from the other end of the soccer experience spectrum.

Yet, she is eyeing for the players (including sons CJ and Bennett) whom she has coached for the past several years the same goal Danielle had as a youngster: A state championship.

We didn’t have soccer when I was younger,” Megan recalls. “CJ and some friends wanted to play so I read some soccer books and looked up some drills on line for their appropriate age.”

At first, it was easy, Megan recalls.

We would play “Green Light, Red Light” and “What Time Is It, Mr. Fox?” and discuss very basic skills like not kicking with your toes and spreading out and not hoarding the ball,” she says.

But as the players got older and better, Megan realized she needed more help.

As they started improving, I knew I needed to also, so I went to many all-day coaching clinics and read more and spent hours on line,” she says.

Megan’s husband Cal also helped coach many of those teams, and she says she has been very fortunate to have the help of high school players who volunteered to help the younger boys. Current VSHS coach Kyle McAbee and other Viking players have also helped coach the younger kids on teams that had as many as 40 players.

The 14U champs and coach Brenda Bartz

After watching the improvement of the VS team, whose leaders include long-time youth soccer players CJ Rickels and David Lapan-Islas, Megan is confident that future VS teams will be among the best in Iowa.

I really do think these boys have a great chance at a state title,” she says.

During their AYSO tourney run, the 14U team that Megan and Cal coached won all of their games and outscored opponents 25-3.

I don’t like to run up scores, like in our 11-0, win but we had seven different boys score. Everyone was passing great and getting a chance on goal,” she says. “Cal and I always emphasized good sportsmanship and this bunch of boys sure know how to win games and to do it with class. There is a lot of talent in these boys and we are going to miss coaching them but Cal and I are excited to be in the stands cheering them on.”

While Megan will miss coaching, she is confident that there are many other parents in the local program who will carry on and learn more as their children advance in age and skill levels.

See the complete tourney results HERE.