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VANDYKE: Dean was the perfect fit, at the perfect time

Josh VanDyke • Oct 26, 2017 at 6:00 AM

Aaron Dean would be the last person to take credit for the success of the teams he has coached over his 17-year tenure manning the sidelines of the Grand Haven boys soccer program.

In his final tour as the Buccaneers' leader this fall season, Dean didn't want any extra attention put on him. Instead, he quietly told his players and their parents early on that this would be his final season as head of the program.

"I didn't really even focus on that, to be honest," Dean said after the team's Senior Night win over Rockford. "It was a really tight game in the second half, and I never really gave that a ton of thought. It's never been about me, though. I just wanted the seniors to finish their season with a win at home.

"This is their one senior year; I've been a part of a lot of last home games. It means more tonight for me, being my last home match, but I was really more focused on making sure these guys ended their high school careers at home the way they wanted to."

The team responded with a 15-4-3 record this fall, capturing a Division 1 district championship, before falling to state powerhouse East Kentwood in the regional semifinals Tuesday.

The Falcons have been a large obstacle for Grand Haven to clear during Dean's tenure. They have won five state titles since 2007 and 12 O-K Red Conference titles in the last 17 years under head coach John Conlon.

It's easy to ponder how much additional success the Buccaneers program might have enjoyed if they weren't battling against a historic dynasty in their own league, but Dean's sustained success in such a time proves that he was the right man for the job, just when the program needed him most.

The 1994 Grand Haven High School graduate and two-time All-State performer as a player compiled a 223-107-32 record in his 17 years coaching the program he used to play for under long-time coach Rick DuShane.

The Buccaneers won or shared four conference titles, seven district titles, one regional title and one state finals appearance in 2011 during Dean's tenure.

Dean's win percentage, ironically, ends at .616 — a fitting number for a man so deeply rooted in West Michigan and its blossoming soccer culture.

The Lakeshore Soccer Club director of coaching since 2004, Dean is widely respected throughout the soccer community for his passion and knowledge of the game.

He obtained the USSF National "B" license and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Premier Diploma during his time as a coach. He is also a past president of the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association and served on the Michigan State Youth Soccer Association (MSYSA) Instructional staffs.

Part of building a successful soccer program is developing a strong interest in soccer at younger ages and continuing to instill consistency from elementary to middle to high school.

Dean has brought that consistency to the Lakeshore through his coaching expertise and passion for developing soccer players and young adults.

While his accomplishments as a coach are well known, his work within the Grand Haven education system is much more important.

Dean has taken on the role of Assistant Principal at Lakeshore Middle School this school year. He taught at Mona Shores Public Schools, Peach Plains Elementary School for nine years, as well as stints at White Pines Intermediate School.

Former assistant principal Amanda Sorrelle was promoted to the school's principal position, leaving an opening for an assistant principal. Much like his time as a soccer coach, Sorrelle believes Dean was the perfect fit for the school, at the perfect time.

"His energy and enthusiasm for middle school students are a perfect fit," Sorrelle said. "He understands the students at this level emotionally as well as our goals educationally. His knowledge of our community and experience at Lakeshore as a former teacher will serve our students, families and staff well."

Dean summed up his priorities as a coach after the team captured the program's sixth district title in seven seasons.

"At the end of the day, we're going to win games and we're going to lose games, but the memories you create along the way and the life lessons you learn as the group is coming together for a common goal is what's so special," he said.

The common denominator in all of Dean's work is that he cares for the younger generation in his community.

Now he'll get a chance to coach Grand Haven area youth in the most important contest — the game of life.

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