Few jobs at Saint Ignatius High School carry more responsibility and hours than the principal, so it was no surprise when Dr. Anthony Fior '02 stepped away as the head coach of the JV B soccer team.
In his place steps John Rowell '11, his dutiful former assistant.
Rowell has served as the assistant coach for the JV B squad for five seasons, readying for the jump to the head coaching gig. And as a student, Rowell was a student manager for the Soccer Cats.
"I'm excited to take a bigger leadership role in the team," Rowell says. "I've been part of the team as the assistant for 5 years, and I've learned a lot from being the assistant and working with Dr. Fior. I'm excited to have it for my own and help the team."
Rowell is one of many coaches on the coaching staff to be "in the building." Rowell is a teacher in the Mathematics Department, fulfilling a dream he had as a student at Saint Ignatius. Rowell was a math tutor as a student at Wildcat High, showing his peers how to conquer math problems. After graduating from Saint Louis University, Rowell returned to his Alma Mater in the fall of 2015 to teach math.
Rowell joined Fior, a fellow Billiken, to coach the JV B soccer squad. In the last five seasons, the dynamic duo achieved plenty of success. In that span, the JV B Cats tallied a record of 61-8-7 (.803), including an undefeated 14-0 mark in 2019. The Wildcats attained an unbeaten season across all three levels last season for the first time in program history.
Mike McLaughlin '85 heartily believes in promoting from within and developing coaches over the long-term. That explains why his entire staff is composed of Wildcat alumni, and several of them count their experience in decades, not years. McLaughlin has full confidence in Rowell.
"I'm really excited that we've been able to offer him a full-time position. His story is a wonderful one," McLaughlin says. "He was a manager of a national and state championship-winning team in 2010 and instantly ingrained himself in the program then as a manager. He stayed in touch with everyone, so when he came back to teach, he immediately became involved in the program. He is a wonderful asset to the program. He understands high school kids and the game of soccer. He's really committed to the program and our young men."
Rowell feels fortunate to work with McLaughlin and such a prominent program.
"The success has been absolutely crazy. It's a privledge to wear the Ignatius crest," Rowell says. "I was in London with the rest of the soccer coaches in February, and I had someone stop me in a market in London. He recognized the crest as an Erie Prep guy. He didn't know anyone from Ignatius, but he said, 'I never played you guys, but I know who you are are. You guys are the best at soccer.' To be part of a program that has international recognition is awesome. It's great to be a part of."
Along with that, coaching the JV B team offers a special opportunity.
As the coach, you work mostly with freshmen and a couple sophomores. So for most of the kids on the team, you're introducing them to not only Saint Ignatius soccer, but Saint Ignatius High School.
"For a lot of the kids, this is their first experience at Ignatius, before they step into the classroom," Rowell says. "They get an idea of what it's like to an Ignatian and a Man for Others. Soccer-wise, we talk about sharing the ball, emphasize a possession game, and play smart soccer. We talk a lot about our four priorities: Keeping God in your life, family, academics, and then soccer, in that order. I love being a role model and showing them what Ignatius is all about. And on top of all of that, it's all about having fun with the kids."