KEARNEY — In its 29 years of existence, the Kearney boys soccer program has had a consistent voice at the helm. That voice is Bill Forman, who started the Bulldogs’ program in the fall of 1990.
However, that voice is about to change as Forman is set to retire from his post as Kearney varsity boys soccer coach and physical education teacher at Kearney Middle School.
“It’s time,” he said. “It’s time for it to be someone else.”
Forman, who has yet to decide if he will step away as an assistant baseball coach, coached his final soccer game Monday, Nov. 4. The Bulldogs dropped a district opening round game to Smithville 2-1 at the TDR Auto Plaza Activity Complex at Kearney High School.
“I’m still trying to process everything,” he said. “You always just want one more.”
Eight seniors join Forman in exiting the Bulldogs’ soccer program this offseason.
“I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to graduate with,” he said. “That’s essentially what this is. This is my senior class. What a great group of guys to be able to finish my career with.”
David Schwarzenbach, the former high school principal who’s now in his first year as Kearney’s athletic director, said he remembers at one point sharing office space with Forman.
“I’ve worked with Bill for several years,” he said. “The thing that sticks out about him is the commitment the kids have for him. He builds those relationships. You see his poise and his leadership on the sideline.”
Forman always knew the ending would be weird.
“I had to make that end-of-the-year speech that everyone else in the state makes except for two teams at each level, but this one was a little different because it was more emotional than all of the others. I knew there was a next year,” he said.
“There’s no ‘We’ll get ‘em next year’ speech for me. But for those freshmen, sophomores and juniors there had to be, and I had to attack it that way after I thanked the seniors for a great year. I had to switch gears and talk about there being somebody else (as coach) next fall, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get in the weight room or you don’t play club. All those things still have to be done moving forward.”
Forman ends his career as the 17th winningest boys high school soccer coach in Missouri.
Forman amassed a 432-258-25 record, 11 wins behind Eddie Horn, current William Jewell men’s coach and former Jefferson City coach. The Bulldogs earned third-place state finishes under Forman in 1997 and 2000.
“I learned really early that you hire quality people and you let them play to their strengths, and sometimes you stand back and get out of the way and let things happen and try not to screw it up,” Forman said at an appreciation night that his assistants threw for him on Oct. 29.
Schwarzenbach said he hopes to hire someone to carry on what Forman has developed.
“He leaves some very big shoes to fill,” the former Kearney principal said. “He’s been here a long time, he’s left his mark and there’s going to be a hole. I think the program that he’s developed will carry over. We’ll see what candidates come up internally and externally, and we hope that they just continue to build.”
Longtime Smithville coach Jon Reed has always been fond of Forman.
“I’ve known Bill for 22 years and I have nothing but respect for him. I think of him as a friend and just a heck of a guy,” Reed said. “We’ve had some great games over the past 22 years. We’d just go back and forth. He’s just a lot of fun and I’m happy to see get to retire. I’m probably not too far behind him.”
Reed isn’t far behind in career wins. Reed, who just completed his 22nd year as Warriors coach, is nine spots below Forman on most Missouri high school coaching wins. He has a record of 352-133-18.
So why step away now? Forman said he wanted to leave while he was still in love with the job.
“I love my job, I love the people I work with and I still enjoy being around the kids. And that’s the way I want to go out. I think we all know somebody that stayed too long and I never, ever wanted to be that guy.”
For Forman, what comes next is unknown, he said.
“I’ll find something to do, whatever that might be. I’ve got some time to figure it out,” he said.