Roxanne Taylor never played a lick of soccer. “I learned it all through books,” she says.
Yet she coached the Rincon/University High boys soccer teams to state championships in 1997, 1998 and 2007. The Rangers finished No. 2 in 2008 and 2009.
She has become an institution at the institution.
“This is my happiest time,” she says. “This has made my life.”
Last week in Sahuarita, Taylor coached the Rangers to the 400th victory of her varsity career. Do you realize how long it takes to win 400 games in high school soccer? Even the best teams and coaches average about 15 wins per year.
This isn’t about big numbers. It’s not even about soccer. It’s about doing things the right way.
“When I started, it was ‘kill to win,’ ” Taylor says, “but as you get older and wiser, you realize it’s not about winning. It’s about what these boys do with their lives.”
The Rangers beat Desert View 1-0 Tuesday night, and there were 37 people in the bleachers at Rincon. It seemed like 37,000. Taylor barely broke a smile when honored in a brief ceremony.
“She’s so mellow,” says AIA referee Michael Rodriguez, who has officiated Tucson prep soccer for a dozen years. “Class act.”
In the early 1970s, Roxanne Taylor arrived in Tucson from Berlin, Wisconsin, 100 miles north of Milwaukee. She had the sports gene and then some. Her father, Bob Schwartz, played basketball for the Wisconsin Badgers in 1938-39 (and later for the professional Sheboygan Redskins).
The Schwartz family moved to Tucson so that Roxanne’s mother, Sophia, an asthmatic, could breathe the desert air.
Roxanne’s first husband died of heart disease. For a while, she worked in the shop at her father’s motor home business. She changed the oil on the RVs and did routine labor. Soccer? What’s that?
She remarried, raised three children, got her teaching certificate, earned degrees from the UA and NAU and built a successful career as a teacher and guidance counselor at a number of Tucson Catholic schools, including St. Ambrose and St. Cyril’s. She is now a counselor at San Miguel High School.
Soccer, and especially coaching, wasn’t introduced as a option until Taylor’s three daughters — Andie, Jayme and Stefanee — tugged at her sleeve and said, “Mom, I wanna play soccer.”
“I started coaching youth soccer when Andie was 6,” she says. “I learned as I went, and I liked it. My big breakthrough was when Gary Grabosch, the great Rincon baseball coach, let me help him coach a summer league team.”
If Taylor was intimidated coaching a boys sport, baseball, it didn’t show. Thirty years ago, she was hired as the junior varsity boys soccer coach at Rincon. It soon evolved into the varsity job.
Talk about your American success story.
“Roxanne is just outstanding,” says Rincon boys basketball coach Rich Utter, who himself earned his 400th career victory this season. “I coached her daughter, Andie. It’s a great family.”
You learn quickly that winning 400 soccer games, and three state championships, isn’t going to be a defining story about Roxanne Taylor. Asked about the state titles, especially the 22-2 team of 1997, she says, “It was unbelievable” and doesn’t embellish.
She prefers to talk about her daughters. Jayme, for example, is an administrator in the office of the president at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
“I’ve been blessed by dedicated and talented young men for the last 30 years,” she says. “My nephew, Josh Schwartz, is such an important part of this team. He was a team captain, and now he’s my assistant coach. He won’t let me retire. He says, ‘If I have to, I’ll push you in a wheelchair to keep you coaching.’”
Rincon athletic director Chip Stratton watched Tuesday as his soccer coach was honored for her 400th victory.
“There’s so much to be said for longevity,” he says. “It’s too bad more coaches don’t stay with it the way Roxanne has.”
The best stories about Roxanne Taylor aren’t about soccer. They’re about the way she is living her life.
A few days before Christmas 2014, she was at a phone store, lined up to make a purchase. She overheard the person in front of her, a special needs, autistic young man, say he couldn’t afford the $390 necessary to buy a mobile phone.
She listened to his story and talked to him. She offered to pay the $390.
That goes way beyond 400 coaching victories, doesn’t it?