By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – The objective for Brad Stiles has never changed.
From his first match as head coach at West High in 2001 to last Thursday’s Mississippi Valley Conference matchup with Dubuque Hempstead the aim for Stiles has stayed the same.
“I just wanted to get a win,” Stiles explained. “That’s always the objective, I don’t think that changes.”
In the 16 years between those two matches Stiles has met that simple objective time and time again – 300 times in total.
West High’s 10-0 win over Dubuque Hempstead last Thursday at Barker Field was the 300th victory of Stiles’s career, putting the veteran coach of 17 seasons in rare company.
“The first couple wins or the first title you never think it’s going to happen and the next thing you know I’m texting guys number 300 and they’re saying you aren’t old enough,” said the 41-year old Stiles. “It’s a good thing to get off my back, it means a lot.”
Stiles has been chasing soccer victories since he started playing the game as a 10-year old.
After nearly two decades leading the West High program the competitive fire in Stiles burns as bright as ever.
Those that know Stiles say he still approaches the game the same way he did as a youth.
“As a player, when we mix it up playing in an over 35 league game there is no difference between Brad at 41 and Brad as a teenager, he wants to win,” said Clear Creek Amana head girls coach and former West High assistant Matt Harding. “He is a competitive guy. It doesn’t matter what it is if we are playing pool or darts or anything he has a competitive streak and it just carries over into soccer.”
That approach, coupled with the burning desire to meet his one constant objective of winning matches has helped Stiles transform West High into the gold standard for high school soccer in Iowa.
“He is just so passionate,” West High senior midfielder Alex Andersen said. “He will put in more time than anyone else to tweak things here and there. He works harder than anyone.”
That passion and work has translated to wins for Stiles. Lots and lots of wins.
Since taking over the program in 2001 Stiles has racked up wins at a rate few of his peers can match.
He amassed 300 wins in under 17 full seasons, averaging 18.5 victories in his first 16 years leading the program.
West High is 300-55-3 under Stiles, a winning percentage of nearly 84 percent.
“I think his passion for the game and the way he treats this program, his players is really second to none. And it’s not been going on for 5 years or something like that,” long-time Cedar Rapids Xavier coach Amir Hadzic said. “To keep it this long and on this kind of level is just outstanding. I think it comes from his passion for the game, his passion for the school and the kids he coaches. Kids see that and they enjoy playing for him and give their hearts for him.”
Under Stiles tutelage tradition and consistency have become trademarks of a West High program annually among the best in the state.
West High has reached the state tournament 15 times in 16 seasons under Stiles, including each of his first 14 seasons.
Stiles has led West High to seven state titles, all since 2003 and has made 12 trips to the state semifinals and 10 title game appearances.
“They have a recognizable style, lots of swings in the back, lots of diagonal balls. And sometimes (it seems like) he breeds players who cater to that style of play. I give him credit for that too,” said Hadzic.
Hadzic’s Xavier squad delayed career win number 300 for Stiles with a double overtime victory over West High on April 6.
The 2-1 loss to Xavier was just the fourth home loss for West High on Barker Field since it opened in 2013.
“Not only do they have a style, but he seems to find players to fit in that style,” Hadzic said. “He loses 7, 8 players one year and you think, OK, now they will rebuild, and then boom they are back where they belong.”
The seven state titles for Stiles are the most all-time and put him in rare coaching company.
Only three other coaches, Hadiz, Regina coach Rick Larew and Stiles’ own high school coach Aziz Haffar at West Des Moines Valley have won four state crowns.
“I never gave any of that a thought when I started,” Stiles said. “A lot of guys have played for me, a lot of great guys and it’s all added up.”
Stiles may not have thought about titles or his place in history when he started but he seemed to think of everything else.
That’s what Harding recalls of his 12 seasons as an assistant on Stiles staff where he was part of five state championship teams.
“Just details,” Harding said. “He thought of everything down to what are we going to pack for meals at state.”
Harding took the head coach position at Clear Creek Amana prior to the 2013 season and has turned the Clippers into a perennial winner.
Much of what he’s done at Clear Creek Amana came from his time with Stiles.
“I didn’t really have a soccer coach until I got to college, that was the first time I was coached by somebody that had actually played the game,” Harding explained. “So, to get to come in here and work under Brad for the time I was here and learn thing about how I’m setting up training sessions and player management and in-game strategy, I owe all that to Brad.”
Stiles’ current West High team is off to another West High-like season with a 4-2 record and No. 7 ranking in Class 3A.
With his 300th victory behind him its back to business for Stiles which means meeting that top objective.
“It means a lot, especially at home but it’s good to put it behind me,” Stiles said. “I think the guys were maybe thinking about it so it’s nice to be able to move on.”