EVANSTON – Chuck Grenfell and Brian Richins met each other at the AYSO soccer fields while their kids played in the Evanston recreational league on a Saturday several years ago.
At that time, they asked each other, ‘What can we do to help Evanston soccer go beyond this level?’
Together in 2012, Grenfell and Richins started the Evanston Express Soccer Club. The organization, which now features five teams, was constructed to provide additional opportunities for youth wanting to participate in competitive play when the AYSO recreational season ended.
“It just grew from there,” Richins said.
Now, Grenfell and Richins will be at the helm for the high school programs. Grenfell will be the new head coach of the Evanston High School girls’ soccer team while Richins will take over the boys’ program.
“The game has been good to me,” Grenfell said. “I wouldn’t say I’ve been around the world, but I’ve been mostly around the world because I can kick a ball, or could kick a ball.”
While their backgrounds are different, both Grenfell and Richins have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to soccer.
Grenfell got involved with the game at a young age, playing at the club and high-school ranks, where his team in south Texas won the Class 5A state championship. Following his prep career, Grenfell spent time in England playing for several club programs. He later played for two seasons at Fresno State, and finished his college career at the University of Houston.
Grenfell went on to play in premier men’s programs, including the Rangers FC (Houston) and Beach FC (Virginia Beach).
“It seemed like I was always good enough to get the invite to come, but never good enough to stay,” he said.
Following his playing career, Grenfell got the coaching bug. He was a volunteer assistant at Evanston High School for six years, and spent another six years as an assistant coach with the program.
Grenfell earned his National C coaching license from the U.S. Soccer Federation in April. He is also the Wyoming Soccer Association’s southwest technical advisor and currently coaches the 2003 and 2004 girls’ team for the Evanston Express.
“It’s fun to give back,” he said. “I can speak from the perspective as a coach and as a player. It’s definitely fun.”
Aftergrowing up in Star Valley, Richins experience with the game is slightly different.
“I started an LDS mission in Italy,” he said. “I got introduced to the sport and the passion of it over there. I had no idea. I had never seen passion for a sport like that.
“I landed the day after (Italy) lost in the semifinals of the 1990 World Cup. It was like a national funeral. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. I got introduced to the passion of it, but I really didn’t know the sport very well.”
Richins, a father of three, became more interested in the game when his boys started playing youth soccer. That later blossomed into a coaching career at the high school level in 2008. That year, Richins served as an assistant on the varsity girls’ team at Evanston under former head coach Jean Cox.
Richins was hired as the head coach in 2010 and remained in that position until 2016, when he switched to being an assistant on the boys’ team.
“(Cox) was a big influence,” Richins said. “She asked me if I’d be willing to try it. I didn’t have much knowledge of the game then, but I’ve picked up on it as I’ve gone along.”
Grenfell and Richins have coached various age groups since they founded the Evanston Express Soccer Club in 2012. Grenfell’s oldest daughter, Caitlin, plays on the 2003 girls’ team. Richins’ son, Jess, is a senior at Evanston High School. His youngest son, Kurtis, is in eighth grade at Davis Middle School, and his oldest son, Sam, graduated from Evanston in 2015 and is currently attending the University of Wyoming.
Earlier this week, Richins and Grenfell took multiple teams to Laramie for an indoor soccer tournament called Turf Wars, featuring clubs from Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska. The tournament is something the Evanston Express Soccer Club has competed in since it was founded.
“It really emphasizes individual skill with the ball,” Grenfell said. “For those kids to get that experience and that emphasis at this point in their development, as far as our season goes, is super important. It will just bleed right into the high school season.”
Grenfell’s 2003 team went 1-1-2 in the tournament this season, with one of the team’s losses coming to the 307 Elite squad, the state-wide team for that age group.
Shelyse Ellingford scored eight goals and Caitlin Grenfell had four to lead the way for Evanston in the tournament.
Chuck Grenfell also coached the girls’ high school team, which went 1-2 after getting strong contributions from Brittany Barton and Quetzalli Saavedra.
“Both of those girls did really good,” Chuck Grenfell said. “The format of this tournament is really small fields. It really emphasizes individual skill with the ball.”
This year, Brian Richins coached the high school boys’ team, a 2003 boys’ team and a 2004 boys’ team.
The high-school team lost its first match to a team from Colorado that ended up playing in the semifinal round. Evanston also fell to a team from Gillete, but bounced back with a win against a team from Laramie.
The 2013 team went 0-3, and the 2014 team was 1-1-1.
Jess Richins led Evanston with 10 goals in three games. Every player on the high school team, excluding the goalkeeper, scored multiple goals in the tournament.
“I thought there was a lot of growth from that group of guys,” Brian Richins said. “It’s good to see that.”