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Oelkers had great success in local youth program; ready to step up at Crook County High School

COURTESY PHOTO - Johnny Oelkers, center, is the new Crook County varsity boys soccer coach. He's shown here with youth soccer players Titus Rodgers, left, and his daughter Callie Oelkers.

Johnny Oelkers has been named the new Crook County High School boys head soccer coach, replacing Ramon Castaneda, who was the head coach for the two years.

Oelkers has been a teacher at Crook County High School for six years, and has been involved in coaching a number of sports at the school.

"I'm really excited to have the job and I'm really excited to see our program develop a positive atmosphere for kids to play soccer. I think the key for us is the youth program and we are excited to see all those kids feeding into the high school program," Oelkers said.

Oelkers should know about the youth program. After being the JV soccer coach at the high school in 2014 and 2015, Oelkers moved to coaching youth soccer in 2016. He has directed the youth program in Crook County since 2018, overseeing a program that went from 350 participants his first year to 525 last year.

Oelkers takes over a program that has not had a winning record since 2014.

"We want to start really building," he said. "We've started at the grass roots, the ground level, with our middle schoolers a few years ago and now kids are feeding into our high school program. We want to just continue the good things that are going on at that level at the high school level."

Oelkers said that his first goal is to change the climate in the high school program.

"We want to take it from the ground up and try to create a healthy community and atmosphere among the players and really try to make it a more positive place to be," he said. "I want to win, but they haven't had a winning program in a long time. I think the key to doing that is first going to be to create a better atmosphere on the team so they start playing together and playing well together and cooperating with each other. It would be amazing to go to the state playoffs, but the first objective is to create better human beings and be a better part of our school community."

To create better teamwork, former head coach Nestor Covarrubias has been working with a group of incoming freshmen most of the summer. The team had intended to participate in summer tournaments. However, those tournaments have been canceled due to COVID-19. Still, the group has continued to practice in preparation for a three-on-three tournament in Bend.

In addition, several other members of the high school team have been involved in informal practices in the evenings.

As part of the effort to change the atmosphere in the program, the boys soccer team is adding a third coach. For the past several years, the team has had just a head varsity coach and a JV coach. This year the team adds an assistant varsity coach.

"We are trying to really build structure and organization to the program this year and also lay out pretty clear standards, boundaries and expectations, so it's going to be a rebuilding year," Oelkers said.

Oelkers had originally planned on beginning more formal summer workouts in early August in preparation for the Aug. 17 start to fall practices. However, earlier this month, the OSAA moved fall sports to the spring, giving the team more time to get ready for the season, but also throwing practice times into uncertainty.

Oelkers is also the head boys tennis coach, so moving soccer to the spring has caused an overlap in his two seasons. Fortunately, that overlap is only going to be a week, or two at the most.

"I actually think it was a good idea to put fall sports in the spring," he said. "But I also coach tennis, so that's going to be a little bit of a problem. We are probably going to have to decide what our priorities are."

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