When Dick Sandstrom was first hired as a teacher at Seattle Prep, the school needed a boys soccer coach.
“It was kind of a new thing around here,” Sandstrom said. “Not a lot of people were doing it. (But) the Sounders, the first Sounders, were kind of a big hit.”
To better prepare himself to coach a program he would lead for the next 36 seasons, he went down to the Sounders’ offices and talked to Jimmy Gabriel for about three hours.
“I was not invited or anything,” Sandstrom said. “I just went in and I wanted to learn a little bit about soccer.”
The one thing he held onto after that meeting had little to do with formations or strategy, but instead he took away that, “you’ve got to let the kids play.”
“Doing football and doing soccer, high-school kids make mistakes,” he said. “It took me about 10 years to learn that they weren’t making mistakes or screwing up to upset me, they were making mistakes because they were high-school kids. Once I learned that, it was a piece of cake. Working with kids, yeah they make mistakes, but they’re trying hard.”
After amassing more than 320 wins as the soccer coach — he also spent 10 years coaching football — Sandstrom decided it was time to step away from the program.
“Health-wise, I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do on the field,” Sandstrom said. “I had excellent assistants. They were doing the job and I was going along for the ride. I said, ‘You know, I love this. I can come out and (be a spectator) and I don’t have some of the other grief and that, so what the heck, now is the time to go.'”
Sandstrom said the boys program will be handed over to girls coach Andy Hendricks, who led the Panthers to the 3A state title last season and was a longtime assistant with Sandstrom.
“The young bloods need to be doing this,” Sandstrom said.
When asked what he will miss most about coaching soccer, he said it will be the interaction with the players.
“People say, ‘well, you don’t get in teaching because of the pay,’ but you don’t include the experiences you get from the kids in the pay,” he said. “Maybe you do get into teaching for that type of thing, because that made it well worth my time and I hope they had just as good an experience as I did.”