Tom Pecore chuckles when he recalls how his coaching high school soccer began.
“When I first started teaching in 1988, the athletic director came up to me and said he’d heard I used to live in Germany,” recalled Pecore. “My mother is German and my dad was in the military. He asked me if I knew soccer. I said that I had played as a kid. He said, ‘Good. We need a soccer coach.’ I said, ‘No, no, no.’ He said, ‘If you don’t, we won’t have a team.’”
“He said, ‘I’ll pay you $600 and you can just stand there,’” continued Pecore. “I’m not making this up. I used my experience growing up in the military and tried to create some structure. Once we had structure, the boys did very well and we ended up having a winning season.”
It was the first of many winning seasons for Pecore. He made a few stops at various Oklahoma high schools before having a very successful 18-year run at Putnam City North. He was coaxed out of retirement four years ago by the folks in Newcastle, and last week he reached a milestone by winning his 300th career game.
“I had a great time at Putnam City,” stated Pecore. “I think we made the playoffs 17 of my 18 years there. We were ranked number one in the country at least twice. Won back-to-back state titles. Had 63 boys go on to play college soccer.”
“I retired in 2018 and the Athletic Director at Newcastle said why don’t you come down here?” continued Pecore. “I went down there and just fell in love with the place. It’s a 4A school and the passion they have is just amazing.”
Pecore is quick to credit his players for his continued success, but he believes there are three keys to being a successful high school coach.
“Being a successful coach is based on three things – one, your set of values,” claimed Pecore. “It’s not about winning. It’s about learning how to work with each other. Two, you have to be a student of the game. And three, at the high school level, you have to have an Athletic Director with a vision.”
Although his first love was baseball, Pecore has maintained a passion for soccer.
When asked to recall a special game in his career, Pecore brings up a loss rather than a win as one of his most cherished memories.
“In 2006, we had about 10 legitimate soccer players and about four athletes,” said Pecore. “We played Jenks and when they did substitutions, it looked like a hockey line coming in. We took them to double overtime. It was the middle of the afternoon. The turf was 132 degrees. We were wearing black and we just ran out of gas. That was one of the most courageous performances I’ve ever seen.”
“As a coach, you tell kids to have no regrets and to leave it all on the field,” added Pecore. “That, to me, was a tremendous coaching experience. I still get goosebumps when I think about it.”
Since reaching the 300-win milestone, Pecore has heard from many of his former players and colleagues.
“Oh yeah,” said Pecore. “I’ve had overwhelming contact from former players, some of whom I hadn’t heard from in 25 years. Some have grown up to become coaches themselves. Colleagues have called me and said the kindest things.”
Getting to 400 wins may be a stretch, but for the time being, Pecore plans to continue coaching the game that he loves.
“I’m enjoying things,” remarked Pecore. “I’m living the dream. Whatever plan God has for me, I will follow. I’m the luckiest guy in the world because there’s so many young people that I’ve had contact with who have grown up to become some of the most wonderful, loving people you ever want to meet.”