One could say that coach David Holmes makes a trip to Louisville and back every week on his bike. That’s because when accumulated, he averages 200 miles a week.
“My brother is a pretty serious cyclist, and he gave me a bike for my birthday several years ago,” Holmes said. “I’ve always had that around the garage, and now is the time I’m making pretty good use of it.”
Many people pass him on the side of the road, or walk by him on campus, and they only see a tan guy wearing sunglasses, pedaling off into the sunset.
They have no idea that he’s probably headed off to Western’s soccer field. But more importantly, they don’t know that he’s been burning that same trail for 20 years.
Building from scratch
Holmes was hired part-time in 1984. But there was one problem: there was no soccer program.
That was when then-Athletic Director Jimmy Feix called. Feix had heard that Holmes had not only created a soccer program at Overton High School in Nashville, but within three years had also taken a losing team and molded them into a team with a 13-1-1 record and a ranking of third in the state.
Feix wanted Holmes to bring that energy north to Western and start the men’s soccer program.
“I think I came into coaching with a lot of different experiences than coaches coming into the business nowadays,” Holmes said. “It seems now that you’ve got to really get into college coaching almost right out of college yourself.
“I learned a lot by playing on competitive amateur teams. Working at inner-city schools as a teacher and working in a prison, I learned to work with people and I learned how to manage people.”
Amateur teams brought Holmes to the area. After graduating from Wooster in 1970 with a history degree and all-Ohio honors in soccer, Holmes said he had no idea that soccer would take him in this direction.
Graduate school at George Peabody College (presently part of Vanderbilt), as well as frequent games in the south, brought Holmes to Nashville. Defender Clay McMillan said he can see Holmes’ experience every day.
“He’s a big competitor,” McMillan said. “You can see the way he used to play come out in his coaching with his attitude towards us.”
For a short time, Holmes worked at the Tennessee State Penitentiary, where he managed the learning lab for young offenders and passed James Earl Ray every morning on his way to work.
After teaching and coaching at different schools throughout Nashville, Holmes received the call from Feix.
Twenty years later, Holmes may see the 200th win granted to the program he started from scratch. If Western beats Vanderbilt tomorrow, it will be adding another accomplishment to the long list that Holmes has managed to achieve throughout his coaching career.
Western is 4-5-1 this season because of a team that prides itself on defense, which isn’t a surprise. Six of Holmes’ other teams have posted eight or more shutouts, including the 1986 team that holds the school record with 10.
Holmes is able to recruit a lot of in-state talent, but more importantly, he attracts excellent student athletes. In fall 1999, spring 2000 and spring 2001, his team was awarded the National Soccer Coaches Association of America team academic award for maintaining at least a 3.0 grade-point-average.
‘He’s a neat person to get to know’
McMillan said Holmes sometimes appears shy on the outside but opens up after the players get to know him. And McMillan was impressed with Holmes when his dad suffered heart problems last week. The sophomore went home to check on his dad and when he returned, Holmes presented him with a media guide signed by all of his teammates.
“Once you get to know him and talk to him, he’s a neat person to get to know,” McMillan said. “He’s a caring guy for his players.”
There’s much more behind the veteran coach than what meets the eye. Though he gets to the office each day as early as 6 a.m., he returns home each night to his wife, Sharon, and two sons, Alex, 15, and Brian, 14. Both sons play soccer at Greenwood High School.
But after 20 years on the Hill, the coach has no plans of going anywhere else. He still gets to the office at 6 a.m., and he still rides his bike.
“I still have the same goals as I did when I started this program in 1984,” he said. “And that is to get in the NCAA tournament.”
Reach Joanie Baker at [email protected]