BELGRADE — Belgrade High School announced it has a new varsity boys soccer head coach in Dr. Robert Lemley, and he said he has a three-to-five-year plan to turn the program around.
“Want the other high schools to know that when they’re going to play Belgrade, we’re going to bring a good game,” Lemley said.
Lemley has been playing soccer his whole life. He won multiple national championships in high school, he’s coached club level soccer for about 10 years and coached four years at Bozeman High with the sophomore girls.
“Just really happy and kind of honored and flattered to be given this opportunity,” he said.
Taking over for Sydney McCauley, who stepped down after last season, Lemley is already familiar with quite a few players on the team.
“I’ve coached a number of these players already at club level," said Lemley. "Most of them are returning seniors right now and I was able to take a handful of them to a President’s Cup, a Regionals Cup and some state finals in there. I’m going to be leaning on those seniors for their leadership.”
As for the playing style of the Panthers, that will depend on who makes the varsity team.
“At tryouts I’ll be able to size up the players and their strengths," said the new head coach. "I think it would be wrong for me to impose my will upon the players at this period of time. I have to have tryouts and pick the best candidates for that varsity squad and then develop the tactics around the strength of the players.”
Belgrade finished 3-8 in its first season as a Class AA team and Lemley envisions he can turn the program around in just a few years.
“I've got a three-to-five-year vision for this team and this soccer program," he said. "Going to make it probably one of the more competitive and award-winning programs in the state, and that means building bridges with the middle schools and the elementary schools so we can build those soccer players up and working with the clubs in town.”
It’s not just about turning the program around, it’s developing players off the field as well.
“It’s going to be a program that’s really rooted in excellence, where character comes first, good leadership, academics being important, sportsmanship as well and a winning mentality, not just on the pitch but also off the pitch," he said. "We’re creating people to go forth and do good in this world, and the lessons learned in athletic endeavors will last with them the rest of their lives.”
Lemley has a son who is a sophomore that is set to play for Bozeman High, which just adds more fuel to the fire in the rivalry.
“The chances are high we’ll probably be playing my son, but the crosstown rivals, those are the best. Those are the best games right there,” said Lemley.