Federal Way soccer coaches on familiar turf at alma maters

Soccer has always been a big part of the high school sports landscape in Federal Way. The city produces some of the best talent in the state year after year.

A lot of credit has to be pointed toward the youth programs that litter Federal Way. But there’s also something to be said about the quality of coaching the kids receive and we have some of the most passionate around — especially at the high-school level.

The passion displayed by Jefferson’s Darren Sawatzky, Federal Way’s Jason Baumgardt and Decatur’s Justyn Scholze can be traced back to their days growing up in Federal Way. All three of the head soccer coaches graduated from the respective schools they are now coaching.

That’s a pretty amazing fact.

The only Federal Way program that doesn’t boast a coach that also wore the school colors in high school is Beamer, which is only 3 years old and held it’s first graduation ceremony last spring.

Sawatzky, Baumgardt and Scholze were star players during their prep days and all went on to play soccer in college before making their way back to Federal Way.

“Playing at TJ was all I wanted as a fifth/sixth grader,” Sawatzky said. “I used to watch the TJ teams win state right through junior high.”

Sawatzky has continued the soccer tradition at TJ during his four seasons at the helm, including winning the school’s state-record sixth state championship last year.

“TJ has always been very important to me even when I was half way around the world playing pro soccer,” he said. “I have always followed the progress and I was very happy when I had a chance to coach here. TJ has an incredible tradition of winning and producing quality soccer players and people. I am proud to be a part of that.”

Baumgardt, a 1992 FWHS grad, is in his second year at the helm of the Eagle program and is attempting to bring Federal Way back into the soccer power it was back in his prep days.

“We used to go to state every year,” he said. “But Federal Way hasn’t been to the state playoffs in 13 years. So when the opportunity at Federal Way came open, I decided what the hell? I will go back to where I went.”

Like TJ, the future is now for Scholze’s Decatur team. The Gators have some of the best individual talent in the state.

“I certainly can’t complain about the soccer players at Decatur,” said the 1998 Decatur grad. “They all know how to play.”

Scholze is quite a bit younger than Sawatzky and Baumgardt, who actually used to play against each other in high school.

“It’s kind of weird that we are now coaching against each other,” Baumgardt said.

Coaching at their alma maters is not the only thing the three have in common — none of them work as teachers. Meaning they are coaching at their alma maters in an attempt to give back to the schools that gave to them. Not just coaching to receive the minimal stipend that goes along with high school sports.

“I was just looking for something to do after work,” Scholze joked.

The baseball programs at Federal Way and Decatur also feature a couple familiar faces inside the dugout. Danny Graham at Federal Way (1991) and Steve Murphy at Decatur (1988) are also graduates of their respective schools.

They’re keeping it in the family in Federal Way.

On the personal side

• As a 1995 Gonzaga University graduate, it’s been a tough week on me. What the hell happened Thursday night? Unbelievable. How do the Zags lose that game after dominating UCLA? I still can’t believe it almost a week later.

Gonzaga has the leading scorer in the nation and can’t score a single point in the final 3:27 of the game? A 6-foot-9, 270-pounder gets stripped by a 6-1 point guard for the winning basket with nine seconds left? Wow.

That’s all I have to say about that one.

• It was also great to see Enumclaw resident Kasey Kahne win his second NASCAR Nextel Cup race last week at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. I have to admit I’m not a big fan of NASCAR. It’s actually pretty agonizing to watch 43 neon-colored cars turn left for three hours. But I do follow Kahne’s career with great interest.

My first reporting job out of college was at the Enumclaw Courier-Herald and I had the pleasure of writing about a short, skinny high school kid who was just starting out in auto racing in a sprint car owned by his dad’s business, Kelly Kahne Trucking.

Ten years later, Kahne is now a multi-millionaire and second in the Nextel Cup point standings and I can honestly say, I was the first person to give him some press. I’m still waiting for my cut of his paycheck.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the Oct 21
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates