On the night when he would earn his 500th career win, Robinson Coach Jim Rike quickly realized he wouldn’t be calling all the shots.
The last time Rike allowed balloons on the bench, the Rams lost by a wide margin, leading the superstitious coach to ban them from the sideline. But last Thursday, the parents convinced Rike to allow a few balloons on the bench since the date also marked one of the players’ birthdays.
And while Rike gave his usual pregame talk, his team ended up holding its own huddle before taking the field against West Springfield.
“Before the game, we all talked as a team and said we really wanted to get this win for him because we were at home, his wife was there and we really respect him,” said senior forward Savannah Miller. “West Springfield’s not a bad team, but that night we just wanted it more and we played our best game of the year.”
Following a 6-0 win that saw nine different players record a goal or assist, Miller and several other Rams dumped a cooler of water on the unassuming Rike before enjoying some cake.
“I had about three jackets on and a sweatshirt, so luckily none of the water went down my back,” Rike said with a laugh. “I was more worried about the game than the significance of the win. It’s great that I’ve been around long enough to reach 500, but it’s never been about me. I’m not the one out there scoring goals.”
It’s this selfless attitude that has allowed Rike to have such an impact on not only Robinson but the entire local girls’ soccer scene.
After coaching the boys’ team at Falls Church for five seasons, Rike took over the Rams in 1981. Since then, he’s led Robinson to 11 district crowns, nine region titles and five state championships, including a 1984 victory in Virginia first AAA girls’ soccer final. As of Tuesday’s games, Rike’s record stands at 501-130-55.
In his 32 years at Robinson, Rike has coached several mother-daughter tandems, including current freshman Keiley McCarthy, whose mom, Meredith, and three aunts are all former players.
Rike, who has twice been named All-Met Coach of the Year, was also responsible for starting the senior all-star soccer games, providing a platform for the top local players to showcase their skills.
“Jim is largely responsible for high school soccer being what it is today in the state of Virginia,” former Westfield, Lee and Oakton coach Chris Godart said via e-mail. “I always told my teams they better be ready to play a Jim Rike coached team from the first minute to the last because they do not let up.”
Considering the Rams had just completed their sixth game of the season, Rike admitted that he found it hard — and a bit awkward — to truly reflect on his successful career, but that will come one day soon, he says.
“It won’t be long before I retire. If my wife had her way, she was hoping I would take my cleats off after the 500th win and walk out the door,” Rike jokingly said. “As long as I’m having fun, enjoying the season and working with the kids and having some semblance of success, I’m open to returning. Whenever that time comes, I’ll know I can say afterward that it’s been a great ride.”
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