MANCHESTER - Every now and again the name of an individual becomes synonymous with a sport or an organization. For Burr and Burton Academy, varsity girls coach Dan DeForest is such a figure.
DeForest has become an icon at BBA. In this, his 26th year as head coach of the varsity girls team, he has compiled a 267-102-15 record, won four state championships an received numerous coaching awards and accolades.
In 2000, DeForest not only won his third consecutive state championship, he also received the National Coach of the Year award for the National Federation Coaches Association - an award, he said, he could not take all the credit for.
"That was a tribute to the whole community of soccer here in the Northshire because we had a phenomenal team that came through here over those years when we won those three championships in row. So, I was the benefactor of a lot of hard work from a lot of people," DeForest said. "This community supports kids, supports youth. I just think it's phenomenal the way they have programs for kids around here and soccer has been one of the beneficiaries of that support. That was something special to be recognized like that. But again, that award really was for a lot of people."
During the time period when his teams won two of those three consecutive titles, the three teams put together a string of 37 consecutive wins, which included a perfect 17-0 season en route to one of the state championships.
"The year when we went undefeated we talked to them about going undefeated. We weren't trying to pretend like it shouldn't have been a goal of ours," said DeForest. "While our goal is to go out and play every game as well as we can play, when you've got the ability you have to try to set a goal that your team can reach for and that was not an unrealistic goal. We talked about it early on in that season that we had an opportunity to win them all, run the table. And there are teams when you don't go in with that attitude for that year, but when it's realistic I don't see what's wrong with putting it out there for them and letting them strive toward that goal."
Hayley Van Der Kar played for DeForest from 1998 to 2000 when the team won three consecutive state championships. Van Der Kar said at the time she didn't realize what a significant accomplishment it was to win 37 games in a row, but looking back on it now it's "kind of cool" to look back on it.
Having played soccer through college Van Der Kar indicated there was something special about those Burr and Burton teams and the relationship with their coach.
"I've never really experienced such a bond with all my players and my coach since then. So, it was pretty special," said Van Der Kar. "Among all my coaches he's one of my favorites and one of the best. He's just the type of guy you want to play well for and you're having fun doing it whereas maybe being pressured to be better. You just want to be a better player for him."
Van Der Kar continued to say that DeForest always stressed to his players that life was always bigger than the game and that other things were more important.
In an interview with DeForest on Tuesday, he said that when he looks back over the course of his coaching career, it's not the records, awards, or even the success of some of his past teams that stick out most in his mind.
"It's seeing kids friendships evolve and last," said DeForest. "Those friendships really stand the test of time and we see that over the years. I still see girls from when I first coached that are friends with one another. I'm not saying those friendships might not have evolved, but I hope that in some way soccer might have had something to do with that."
DeForest said that he felt providing kids with the opportunity to build some strong relationships was one of his most important responsibilities as a coach. In developing those relationships - and a team first mentality - as well as the other intangibles beyond the "Xs and Os" of the game, DeForest said the rest of it "kind of takes care of itself."
While it is that team first mentality, their feeder program that continually provides them with good athletes and their style of play that DeForest considers to be partially responsible for the success his teams have had over the years, another reason has been his long time assistant coach Bruce Kern.
"He has been instrumental in bringing the program to the level that it's at year in and year out," said DeForest. "He is a skill oriented, teach oriented coach. He makes players better and he makes drills that we do better. He's got a knack for seeing what we're doing and making us do it at a better level. Every step of the way he's an integral part of our success."
DeForest has also received the Marble Valley League Coach of the Year Award 10 times, Vermont Large School Coach of the Year Award in 1999, 2002, and 2009, the Vermont Private Parochial School Coach of the Year Award in 2009 and the Twin State Coach of the Year Award in 2000 and 2003. He has also won eight League Championships and three Lady Patriot Classics in 2008, 2009 and 2012.