There will be a new coach working the sidelines this fall for Kennedy boys soccer.
Bob O’Connell, 34, is the head varsity soccer coach and will be the sixth boys soccer coach in Kennedy’s history. He is first new coach at Kennedy since 1984.
O’Connell begins his tenure when the Celts host Lutheran St. Charles at 6:15 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 28).
He replaces Tom Rapp, who was not retained. Rapp also coached the girls and assistant coach Rob Madison, 26, will move up to take over the girls’ program.
O’Connell previously coached at Saint Louis University. Most recently, he coached the junior varsity for the last 10 years at Saint Louis University High, where he teaches history.
After graduating from De Smet, O’Connell went on to play at Saint Louis University.
“I’m pretty excited about IT,” O’Connell said. “I teach at SLUH. My A.D. sent some kids to Kennedy. He had heard about the opening and asked me if I would be interested in it. I said absolutely and exchanged some e-mails with Joe (Walterbach, the Kennedy athletic director). I was lucky enough to get it.
“I care about kids and a Catholic education. I want to keep the program winning. It’s been good in the past and I want to keep it that way.”
Besides coaching at SLUH, O’Connell scored the junior varsity program at Ursuline Academy for three years.
“Kennedy has been competitive in Class 1,” O’Connell said. “They have played a tough schedule. They are always competitive in those games. From other coaches I’ve talked to, they play hard. That’s all a good starting point.”
This year, Kennedy moves up to Class 2. The Celts are in a district with John Burroughs, Maplewood and Whitfield.
“The kids want to be a part of something that’s successful,” O’Connell said.
His coaching philosophy is based on what he’s learned over the years.
“It’s a little bit of a cliché but you start preparing and then perform and accept the results graciously,” O’Connell said. “Practice is so important. You can’t control results in a game. I want players to compete. If you win, that’s great. If you lose, lose well. I want to help our kids develop and be the best they can be.”
O’Connell’s high school coach, Greg Vitello, retired after the school year at De Smet Jesuit after 47 years. He talked to Vitello about his new job.
“He absolutely told me it was a great opportunity,” O’Connell said. “He said I should go for it. Besides my father, Vitello is the most influential fellow in my life. He gives good advice. You might not like what he says but he will tell you.”
Madison is a Kennedy graduate. He is the program’s fourth head coach. After graduating from Kennedy, Madison continued his playing career at Truman State University.
Madison has been on Kennedy’s coaching staff the past two years. He currently teaches fourth grade in Union.
“I am very excited about this opportunity,” Madison said. “I’m familiar with the players and the skill level they have. I went to school at Kennedy so I know the culture there as well. I always hoped that one day I’d be able to be a coach there.”
Madison said his coaching philosophy involves two main components.
“I like to stress good sportsmanship,” Madison said. “I like to reward hard work.”
Madison, who played for Rapp, said he appreciated the chance to work along side of him.
“I to go hear a lot from him,” Madison said. “I learned a lot as far as dealing with the different skill levels and making sure everybody got a chance to succeed.”
The traveling from Union to Kennedy is not that bad, Madison said.
“It’s about a 45-minute drive,” Madison said. “It’s a good chance to reset my mind for what I want to do in practice and attack each game.”
Rapp leaves both coaches with a legacy of success. His boys’ teams were 324-353-55. His Celts won a state title in 1986. Kennedy reached the Final Four two other times, coming in third in 2009 and fourth in 2010.
With the girls, Rapp’s teams were 343-269-43.Kennedy played for the state championship in 1986 and lost in triple overtime. In 1994, the Celts finished fourth.
Rapp retired from teaching five years ago at Kennedy but kept coaching.