A large part of the Saint Ignatius soccer program's success owes to the outstanding coaches on staff.
The names on the staff are familiar to just about any Saint Ignatius grad of the last few decades – Mike McLaughlin '85, Jim Brennan '85, Joe Popelka '84, Dan Crew '99, etc. Nearly the entire staff is made up of teachers and alumni who bring a Cura Personalis approach to coaching.
The Wildcats have added one more dynamic, beloved teacher to the staff – Mike Strauss '87. Strauss has joined the soccer program as a volunteer assistant coach for the JV B team.
With the promotion of Dr. Anthony Fior '02 to principal, John Rowell '11 assumed the role of JV B head coach. Strauss volunteered to fill the opening as an assistant with the JV team, and Head Coach Mike McLaughlin '85 immediately accepted.
"Mike reached out over the summer, and we were happy to bring him aboard," says McLaughlin. "He's been around the game through his son and is an experienced coach. He was interested in getting back involved with coaching and has grown in his love of soccer. He has appreciation for the details, and will fit right in with our program."
Indeed, Strauss is no stranger to Wildcat High or the game of soccer.
Strauss attended Saint Ignatius as a student, graduating in 1987. Following his college graduation and a stint as a Jesuit volunteer in 1993-94 with Regis Jesuit High School in Colorado, Strauss returned home to earn his teaching certificate. Not long after coming home, Strauss returned to his Alma Mater as a cross country coach.
Then-head coach Frank Jancura '63 brought Strauss aboard during the program's run of success. The Wildcats won OHSAA State Championships in 1993 and 1994, along with four straight regional titles from 1995-98. Strauss coached the uber-successful Marc Sylvester '01, as well.
Strauss stopped coaching after the 1998 season, but returned to Saint Ignatius as a teacher in 2004. Strauss now serves as a school counselor, often dipping his toes back into the water as a teacher, instructing young Wildcats in English.
Strauss stepped away from coaching to focus on his own sons, Patrick '17 and Brian '20. Both played soccer in grade school at St. Angela Merici, but took different paths at Ignatius. Paddy excelled with the Soccer Cats while Brian became a star for the Rugby Cats. Both won the #34 Jim Skerl Award as seniors.
With Paddy at LeMoyne College and Brian headed to Niagara University, Strauss will have more free time available.
"Now that they're on to college, I have time to coach," Strauss says. "I really want to get back into coaching. I know the soccer program through Patrick, so I reached out. Working with the freshmen and sophomores on the team, I bring my counseling background into it. Freshmen especially need nurturing during that transition to high school."
That connection is one of the reasons why McLaughlin leaped at the chance to have Strauss on board.
"One of the hallmarks of our programs is the connection we have with our players. As a counselor, that's an area Mike excels at," says McLaughlin. "He knows the kids well. And he's just a good human being. As a graduate and teacher, he cares a lot about the kids and the program. It's a win-win to have him involved in the program."
A large part of mentoring the JV B Cats is bringing a sense of Cura Personalis. At the JV level, winning is not as important as molding boys into men.
Strauss understands the mission of the school well and will help teach youngsters how to be Men for Others.
"The staff, dating back to Doc Knittel and Tom Healey and now, is incredible. Those guys and the moral fiber they bring to the program is unbelievable," Strauss says. "To be another thread and weave that in there is great. At Ignatius, the game is important, but being a better person is more important than a game. Being a better teammate and person is the ultimate goal. We focus on the whole person. It's not just about the English lesson or scoring the goal. It's how you develop as a human being, how you treat other people, and how you carry yourself, so that you take that with you wherever you go."
McLaughlin believes that the veteran educator is the perfect man for the job.
"He's just a great guy. It's a huge asset to have another coach in the building," McLaughlin says. "He's great in the classroom and as a coach. "I'm excited to have another wonderful human being on the staff, as we try to give the kids more than just a soccer experience."
Soccer-wise, Strauss has learned plenty from coaching and watching his sons play.
One idea he'll preach to the boys is patience and working hard every day.
"Saint Ignatius soccer can be very competitive, so a kid who makes the JV B kid may be disappointed not to be higher up," Strauss says. "One of my goals is to emphasize that you don't have to come in as a starter. It's okay to progress on your own time. As long as you work hard, trust in your ability, and have the right attitude, the sky is the limit. I'll use the Patrick's experience as an example. He started with JV B, but played and won a state championship here, and then became a 2-year captain and 4-year starter at LeMoyne. You can achieve your soccer dreams here. You can work hard, have fun, and have a lot of success."