Greg Hansen: Foothills' Kendrick, Salpointe's Weber orchestrate soccer dynasties

2013-02-13T00:00:00Z 2013-02-13T13:27:34Z Greg Hansen: Foothills' Kendrick, Salpointe's Weber orchestrate soccer dynastiesGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 13, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Charlie Kendrick's soccer teams have won 93 percent of their games. Do you fully realize what 93 percent is?

It's an 81-game winning streak. It's seven state championships. It's when you consider 20-2 a down year.

Do you know what he set out to be? A cello player. Kendrick was so stuck on the cello that when it came time to choose a high school, Salpointe Catholic or Palo Verde, he chose Palo Verde because Salpointe didn't have an orchestra.

That was high drama for a soccer-loving midfielder of the late '80s, a time when Salpointe was coming off 1985 and 1986 state championships, coached by Wolfgang Weber, who, as far as many Tucsonans know, invented soccer.

"Everyone wanted to play for Wolf," Kendrick says now. "I wanted so badly to be a soccer player; I had a poster of the USA national team over my bed. It was the first thing I looked at every morning. But it just didn't work out for me to play for Wolf. I thought I'd turn out to be an engineer or a lawyer."

A quarter-century later, Kendrick and Weber were in the same place at the same time, Saturday at the Division II state championships. Two of the most unpredictable and unlikely coaching careers came together on a memorable afternoon in Gilbert.

Kendrick had just been doused with Gatorade by his Catalina Foothills girls soccer team, which had won its fourth consecutive state championship. Weber was waiting to coach Salpointe's boys team to the sixth state championship of his long career.

"Charlie was freezing, he didn't have a change of clothes," Weber says. "I felt so happy for him. He's one of the most terrific coaches we've had in Arizona."

Two hours later, Salpointe won its second consecutive state championship, but the celebrating Lancers didn't dump a cooler of Gatorade on their coach, who, after 32 years, knows when and how to get out of the way.

The two coaches write a compelling script.

Much like Kendrick, who began his post-college odyssey by working as a teacher and by pouring concrete, Wolfgang Weber became a soccer coach almost by accident.

He moved to Tucson in 1973 from his native Aachen, Germany, intent on becoming a chef. For nine years he worked the all-day shift at his downtown restaurant, Benji's Café.

Weber didn't grow up with a soccer poster above his bed, but he did grow up in futbol-mad Europe. When he arrived in Tucson, he discovered that soccer wasn't part of the high school sports calendar, and that youth soccer was almost invisible.

But one day in the late '70s, at a private party, someone did the math and guessed that if Weber spoke German, he must be soccer-savvy.

"The young man told me, 'We have this little team, but our coach is leaving,'" Weber says now. "He asked me to come to a couple of practices and help out. Well, it caught fire. I really enjoyed it. Pretty soon I got my C license. A year later, I got my B license. In 1982, I got my A license and began giving clinics all over the state."

By 1982, former Salpointe athletic director Eleanor Birmingham asked Weber if he would be interested in starting a varsity soccer program for the Lancers. She would pay $1,000 a year.

How'd it work?

Weber's teams have gone 574-84-15. He laughs when asked if he ever had a bad season. "We were 17-7-3 once," he says. "That's the worst."

Together, Weber and Kendrick are 797-99-19. They've won 13 state championships. In the so-called "off-season" they work together at the formidable Tucson Soccer Academy, partners in the most successful sports training establishment in Southern Arizona.

Weber is passionate and old-school. His in-your-face approach of the '80s has evolved into that of a you-can-trust-me-I-know-this-stuff mentor. It works.

Kendrick is more philosophical and more of a disciplinarian. He appoints a parent to be a videographer each year, allowing him to break down and scout an opponent the way a football coach does. It works, too.

Weber is 65, but he's not going anywhere.

"I started resenting people asking if I am going to retire," he says. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm really enjoying this."

Kendrick is 39, the father of two young sons, 10 and 4. In a way, he's just getting started.

"I took a break from school, pouring concrete for a living," he says. "I used it as a motivation to go back to school and get my economics degree. I thought I'd coach (youth) soccer for a little while and then get on with life."

But that plan detoured when a clinic at Orange Grove Middle School turned into a job offer to coach the school's boys and girls soccer teams. He went from there to the junior varsity program at Catalina Foothills. That was 12 years ago.

"When they asked me to take over the girls varsity team at Foothills, it was like, 'I don't know if I'm ready,'" he says.

Ready? His team won the state title two years later. His record is 223-15-4. The thought of it makes Weber laugh.

"In the early days, they'd sometimes hire a baseball or football coach and ask him, 'Can you also coach soccer in the off-season?'" he says. "They don't do that any more."

Now they hire people like Charlie Kendrick.

Soccer on TV tonight

Fox Sports Arizona will rebroadcast Southern Arizona's two state championship soccer wins tonight. Catalina Foothills' win over Glendale Apollo will be shown at 5 p.m., and Salpointe's win over Apollo will follow at 7 p.m.

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or ghansen@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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