MARYVILLE, Mo. — Mat Beu knew as early as last fall that he’d have to find a new coach to lead the boys soccer program at Maryville High School. Former coach Dale Reuter was in line for a promotion at his day job — the Missouri State Highway Patrol — that would bring increased responsibilities and the end to his three-year stint as the head coach of the program at the end of the season.
As the fall semester closed and the spring season neared, Reuter was set for his final run with the school’s girls soccer program — one that would ultimately be scrapped by the COVID-19 pandemic — and both the former coach and Beu, the school’s activities director, expected to tab Nigel Hoilett as Reuter’s replacement.
But after Hoilett, an associate professor at Northwest Missouri State University, made a trip home to Jamaica to renew his visa between the fall and spring semesters and his return was stalled by unspecific bureaucratic delays, his absence left an immediate void in the form of an assistant coaching position under Reuter for the girls season in the spring and atop the boys program this fall. The void, then and now, has been filled by Chase Tolson.
Tolson, a math teacher at Maryville High School who first got into coaching when he joined Reuter’s staff in the spring, is set to take over as the head coach of the boys program this fall, leading the team through a season that is not guaranteed to happen as COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the state and the region.
As Beu tells it, Tolson was always set to be in the mix as a coaching candidate for both programs, though the expectation was for the newly-minted head coach to take on an assistant role under Hoilett and learn more about the X’s and O’s of the game he’s been a fan of for years. Hoilett’s absence expedited that process.
“We wanted Chase to be involved in both the boys and girls programs, just because he has such a phenomenal rapport with the kids, and he’s a real relationships guy, in terms of just building those connections,” Beu said. “We thought, ‘Man, he could be really a great addition to our program.’ So we kind of had him earmarked for both of those positions following the end of the boys season last year.”
And so now Tolson is the fresh-faced head coach of a soccer program that had grown used to the seasoned leadership of Reuter — though neither Beu nor Tolson view his relative inexperience as a bad thing. In fact, it’s one of the traits that made him a strong candidate.
It wasn’t that long ago when Tolson was playing soccer and in high school, where he would have played for the high school soccer team had Trenton R-IX offered it. He graduated from Trenton in 2014 before moving on to Truman State University and pursuing a teaching degree. He got his Master’s in Education this spring. He’s only six years older than some of the players on his roster, a fact that he said has helped him build connections with players at a pace and level that other coaches might not.
At 24 years old, Tolson is the youngest head coach at Maryville High School and one of the youngest registered coaches in the state of Missouri. And he’s not alone. While Tolson will be taking on what he referred to as an “administrative” role as head coach, Beu and company tabbed Jesus Gonzalez, a graduate student at Northwest in his mid-20s, to serve as an assistant coach to Tolson, though the pair will essentially split head coaching duties.
Gonzalez, Tolson said, will take care of most of the Spoofhounds’ onfield coaching duties this fall. Together, Beu said, the pair of new coaches could excel the program toward the top of the MEC — right where it resided for much of Reuter’s tenure.
“Myself and Chase and Jesus actually met kind of during the shutdown period very briefly and kind of talked about the direction of the program and how we could really collaborate together to try and provide a fantastic opportunity for our boys soccer players going into the fall season,” Beu said.
“I think it provides a real shot of energy for the program,” he said. “Just having two young guys who are so enthusiastic about the sport and about promoting it here locally, guys that really enjoy it. I believe their age is such a tremendous advantage.”
Beu said Gonzalez, a native of Venezuela, brings interactional coaching experience to the fray, along with an in-depth knowledge of the game. And he said Tolson, who’s entering his second year as a math teacher at Maryville High School, is likely “among the first generation of local American domestic coaches who grew up their whole lives being exposed to soccer.”
Tolson, who’s still crafting his knowledge of the game, said the team’s early focus has been on conditioning. The Spoofhounds only got a little over a week’s worth of practices in during a stretch in mid-July before Maryville R-II shut down district facilities and activities until Aug. 10 due to the spiking COVID-19 cases in Nodaway County.
But in the short time Tolson was able to meet with the team, they focused on being in shape, he said, and he participated in running drills along with the team, something he said his players seemed to appreciate.
The COVID-altered offseason has been weird, Tolson acknowledged, but as a first-time head coach, he has no standard set for what an offseason should be. With uncertainty ahead of the program, and uncertainty that led them to the helm of it, Tolson and Gonzalez are jumping in feet first, hoping to make a splash.
“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we improved on last season, for sure — make a run at districts,” Tolson said. “I think that we’ve got a lot of really talented young guys coming in that can help us a lot. … I definitely think that there’s a shot that we can win a couple of district games. I wouldn’t put it past us.”