Gielczyk: Manistee’s Guillen Stepping Away After More Than a Decade

As he looked out the window of the restaurant, Rudy Guillen smiled. Almost wistfully, it seemed.

Just a few weeks ago, Guillen had tendered his resignation as the Manistee High girls soccer team’s head coach after 14 years at the helm.

Combined with the seven years he coached the boys’ team, Guillen has been coaching for a total of 21 years.

He’s just beginning to realize that, and how big a part of his life coaching has been.

“You never really put the time together until you get done,” Rudy Guillen said. “I never paid a whole lot of attention to it until I met with Andy (Huber, Manistee High principal) and Matt (Kieffer, athletic director) prior to the season.

“They had commented “I never realized how long you’d been here.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I started doing the math on that and it’s been awhile.’ But, there’s been a lot of good stuff out of it. I coached a lot of great kids, met a lot of great people. It was a very, very enjoyable experience.”

Guillen actually started out coaching the girls, but was later approached about coaching the boys, and after some convincing agreed.

Success came quickly, with the Chippewas winning back-to-back district titles in his first two seasons at the helm.

Which can be a curse, as well as a blessing.

It’s nice, and certainly more fun, to win. But, it also raises expectations. Fans start to think it should happen every year.

But, few teams can win all the time, and when there aren’t the annual trips to the regional final … and beyond … the faithful can grow restless.

Guillen never made it all about winning, though.

He was more concerned with teaching his players not only to play the game well, but to show good sportsmanship and become better citizens as they move forward with their lives.

What pleases him the most is when his former players graduate, begin to have families of their own and come back to tell him how much they appreciated his help.

They all still call him “coach.”

“It’s pretty heartwarming,” said Guillen. “I think you can ask any coach that has done it for any length of time and they’ll agree. We all know it’s not the money. Just being able to work with all the kids all these years has been pretty rewarding.”

“I coached some great boys back in that day,” Guillen said. “It’s kind of tough sometimes when you get success that quick, to try to keep that ball rolling. You can look at success in so many different ways.

“You can go with the win/loss column, or you can go with what comes out of the whole program. Not only with what the kids have accomplished playing soccer, but what they’ve done academically.

“There certainly are things I would have liked to accomplish before I got out. But, those things, they get dusty on the shelf. So, I kind of look at the big picture. I got a lot of great experiences out of it.”

Guillen isn’t discounting returning to coaching in some capacity in the future, whether it be next year, or sometime down the road.

He might help out with the youth soccer programs.

Manistee has had a junior varsity team now the past two years, and Guillen would like to see that continue. Although he played a couple of freshmen on the varsity this season, Guillen knows that isn’t the norm, and freshmen need to gain experience against players their own age.

“I always said I wanted to step away when I felt good about it (the program), and that it was in a good place,” Guillen said. “I feel that it is, and hopefully they’ll continue to be successful. If they ever need anything, they can always call me. If they don’t, that’s okay, too.

“There’s some things personally I’d like to be able to do, outside of coaching. It’s time. I don’t think if I had decided not to do that I would have ever got out. I feel good about it. Do I miss it? Good God, yeah, already. But, I’m good with the decision I made.”

Guillen added that he was treated very well by the school administration, having coached under two athletic directors, and has no complaints about the support he received.

“The athletic department has always done a great job for me,” Guillen added. “It’s been a good experience in that respect.”

Whether he gets a phone call or not, Guillen will be one of the soccer team’s biggest supporters.

Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. 

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