Coon Rapids soccer coaches receive honors

Two Coon Rapids Soccer Association (CRSA) coaches received postseason honors from the Minnesota Youth Soccer Association (MYSA) for their work last summer.

Kate Gambino was named MYSA Female Recreation Coach of the Year and  was named runner-up for the men’s Recreation Coach of the Year.

Gambino has served as U8 recreation plus coordinator for the last two years and it is the largest growing age group in the club, partially because of Gambino’s dedication to the game and kids’ development.

Last summer she oversaw 16 U8 teams and had 10 teams in the fall program.

Kate Gambino, CRSA coach, was named MYSA Female Recreation Coach of the Year. Submitted photo
Kate Gambino, CRSA coach, was named MYSA Female Recreation Coach of the Year. Submitted photo

Gambino is a mother of three and a kindergarten teacher at Epiphany Catholic School. She never played the game, but grew up watching her brothers play.

She became involved with the CRSA when her son, Matteo, now 10, joined the program as a five-year-old.

“I’ve been watching and learning from his games since then,” Gambino said. She has since coached both daughters’ teams, Rosa (8) and Gianna (6).

She said she enjoys spending time helping kids and parents, “discovering the joys of soccer through playing and coaching.”

“She shows undying dedication and commitment to the club and the players,” Deb Zepeda, CRSA recreational director, wrote about Gambino in nominating her for the award. “Kate shows a love for the kids and sport that never seems to end. Her dedication to the club is amazing.”

Bill Thielbar, CRSA coach was named MYSA Recreation Coach of the Year, runner-up
Bill Thielbar, CRSA coach was named MYSA Male Recreation Coach of the Year, runner-up

Gambino volunteers numerous hours and days wherever it is needed. “She encourages and mentors her players to do their best and that no matter what happens they are there to have fun while learning the rules of the game,” Zepeda said.

Thielbar was a big soccer fan growing up, following the Minnesota Kicks and Strikers over the years before coaching soccer in 2003.

One reason for taking up coaching reigns came from a lack of volunteers to coach his son, Dieter’s team.

He loves working with kids and has helped translate into team success, Thielbar said.

“The formula for success has been: Everybody has a role and we play as a team, win or lose,” he said. “Make it fun and they will play forever.”

As for coaching soccer, Thielbar said he ”was not happy with the way I had seen the players developing in the program and felt there should be more offense rather than defense in the six versus six game,” he said, in addition to weekly practices to work on skills.

Ten years later he holds a Y certification and is part of the MYSA coaching mentor program. He also coaches an under-14 team and serves on the rec committee.

Aside from soccer, Thielbar has coached hockey since 1976 at various levels. He helped found and form the first girls’ hockey program in Coon Rapids and coached traveling hockey for many years winning titles at each level.

On the hockey side, he currently coaches in the Minnesota Hockey Recreational League and serves as the U-17 league director.

For the last seven years he’s coached with the Minnesota Special Hockey.

Thielbar has also coached in the Coon Rapids Athletic Association’s girls’ softball league.

“He has shown extreme commitment and dedication to [Coon Rapids Soccer Association], his players and their parents,” Zepeda wrote on the nomination form.

“He lets his players know what good sportsmanship is and encourages them that even under stress during a game, it is their responsibility to be the kind of player that represents good conduct and behavior.”

According to Zepeda, Thielbar has developed quite a following throughout the club.

“There never seems to be a season when he has not received numerous requests to coach a team or player,” Zepeda said. “He does his best to make sure his kids are having fun while learning and respecting the rules and players of the game.”

Jason Olson is at
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