Prep Zone: Wyoming conference invigorates St. Charles North girls soccer's Vostal

Summer break is only a few weeks old, but St. Charles North girls soccer coach Ruth Vostal already feels rejuvenated – at least from a coaching standpoint.

Vostal returned Thursday from the National High School Athletic Coaches Association convention in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, at which she was among eight finalists for Soccer Coach of the Year.

Vostal didn’t garner the ultimate award but came away invigorated by the networking opportunities at the event, which honored top coaches in 19 different sports.

“It inspired and motivated,” Vostal said. “It was just a cool experience. I know it was probably a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. I was glad I was able to be out there and be recognized for that, and they have a big screen with the name and school, and that was sort of the reason I wanted to go, get some publicity for the school and the girls in the program, and that was definitely done.”

Each of the finalists gave presentations to other attendees. Vostal is a huge believer in cultivating a culture of toughness in addition to working on soccer skills and strategies, and she made the mental side of coaching the focus of her address, entitled “Training Outside the Lines – Mental Preparation.”

Vostal, initially reluctant to make the trek to Wyoming, said she developed an especially strong rapport with the winner of the Soccer Coach of the Year honor, veteran Connecticut high school coach Steve Waters.

“I’m so glad I took the time to figure it out because I met some really awesome people there,” said Vostal, who has coached the North Stars for 14 years. “[Waters] and I have already emailed back and forth. He and I had similar coaching strategies and sort of on some level, with regard to the quality of programs we have, with the expectations for our players, we just sort of connected.”

Vostal’s North Stars have won 12 straight regional championships and finished third or better in the state three times. She won state and regional coach of the year honors to earn the invitation to Wyoming.

The former St. Charles High and University of Michigan soccer player was proud of being recognized nationally but also cited heartening feedback much closer to home. She said several North parents have written recently to express their appreciation for helping mentor their daughters, including one dad who cited Vostal’s difficult-to-achieve knack for being feared and loved by players at the same time.

“It’s just a cool relationship that we have with this group of players because I do feel that I am very, very hard on them but at the same time, I also support and care about them, and I think I show that with different ways out of soccer, going to different things out of soccer to support them, and they support my family,” Vostal said.

Vostal wasn’t especially anxious about her public speaking role at the conference, saving her nerves moreso for flying in to Jackson Hole, situated near the Teton mountain range.

“I’ve flown a ton as a kid, playing at Michigan and all … I’ve come not to love it,” she said.

Summer showtime: The monthlong Geneva Summer League for boys basketball teams concludes tonight with single-elimination tournament play.

St. Charles East (10-0) is the lone unbeaten squad in the 20-team league entering tournament play. Metea Valley (9-1) and defending Upstate Eight Conference River champion Larkin (8-2) also have clicked in league play.

St. Charles North and Batavia (7-3 each) have winning records in league play. Host Geneva brings a 5-5 mark into the tournament but carries momentum from emerging as team champion Monday at Illinois State University’s team camp.

• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or jschwab@shawmedia.com.