And so closes another chapter – a long chapter – in the soccer life of Paul Mendes.
Mendes resigned as the boys soccer coach at Coupeville High School earlier this month, ending a string of 33 years of coaching high school soccer, the last eight at CHS.
Mendes’ own playing career ended with a serious leg injury, but the set back was a gain for high school soccer players at Bellevue’s Newport High School and Coupeville.
At Newport, Mendes won two state titles, 1982 and 2003, and placed second in state twice.
He called the second state title his coaching highlight as the Knights went 20-0-1 and were ranked in the national top 10. As a result, he was named the King County Eastside Prep Coach of the Year.
His Newport teams made 13 state appearances and won 10 Kingco championships.
He led Coupeville teams to the final 16 twice, and his CHS highlight, he said, was taking the 2009 squad to state, the first in school history.
“I feel quite proud of our competitive spirit and conduct on the field,” Mendes said. “Over the years we managed to beat every team in the Cascade League. We developed quite a rivalry with South Whidbey, so beating them home and away during the 2010 and 2012 seasons was also very satisfying.”
In his resignation letter to the Coupeville School District, Mendes said, “The decision to retire from coaching is one that I have thought a great deal about, and I feel that now is the right time. I would like to thank the school for giving me the opportunity to serve. It has been a special experience for me, filled with many golden moments that I will cherish forever.”
He added, “I feel good about going out with a special group of seniors, who gave it their best shot and represented their school very well.”
Mendes said there are other projects he would like to take on, as well as having more time to “appreciate spring on this beautiful island.”
In addition to coaching high school soccer, he was an assistant at Seattle Pacific University and helped the Falcons win national titles in 1986 and 1993.
When Mendes was a child, like many youngsters he dreamed of becoming a professional athlete. After graduating from Newport, he played soccer for the University of Washington, lettering four times and receiving all-league honors three times.
His childhood dream was realized when he was drafted by the Seattle Sounders in 1977. His rookie season was cut short by a mistimed tackle that sent him by ambulance to the hospital with a compound fracture of his lower leg. He was never the same, and his professional career ended two years later.
Mendes calls setbacks “stepping stones.” This setback sent him back to school where he stepped forward by earning his degree and refocusing his life on teaching and coaching.
It also enabled him to expand his horizons by studying abroad in Spain and Argentina.
The pavers eventually led to the positive impact he had on lives of hundreds of high school athletes.