Journeys: Alumni coach Q-and-A with … Fairview grad Rob Johnson

Johnson has guided successful boys, girls programs at both Niwot and Silver Creek

Former Fairview soccer player Rob Johnson, right, poses alongside teammate Chris Bowman for a senior picture. (Photo courtesy Rob Johnson)
Former Fairview soccer player Rob Johnson, right, poses alongside teammate Chris Bowman for a senior picture. (Photo courtesy Rob Johnson)

Rob Johnson grew up playing soccer in the Boulder Valley School District at Fairview and now he coaches in the St. Vrain Valley district with Silver Creek.

Between Fairview and Silver Creek, two schools separated by less than 17 miles of small interurban highway, the Class of 1989 Knights alumnus and veteran coach has been all over and coached at just about every level imaginable.

After attending college at Fort Lewis and Colorado State, Johnson coached for FC Boulder and Boulder Volleyball Club. He then went on to be an assistant coach at Regis University and the University of Kentucky before moving back to Colorado. Upon his return, Johnson coached with FC Boulder from 2000-07. In 2010, he became the head boys coach at Niwot, where he also coached the girls team for several seasons. Johnson arrived at Silver Creek as head boys coach in 2016 and then took over the girls program in 2017.

In four seasons with Johnson as head coach, the Silver Creek boys have a 48-16-12 record and the Raptors girls have a 42-8-3 record in three seasons.

How did your coaching journey lead you back to the northern Colorado area and what led you to coach boys and girls soccer at Silver Creek?

“I was born and raised in Boulder. I played soccer for FC Boulder and Fairview High School back in the 80’s. After I was married, my wife took a job in Lexington, Ky. We lived there for three years, but my wife was going to be promoted to a corporate job in Atlanta, Ga. We decided to move back to Colorado. Our families are here so it made sense. I got a job working for FC Boulder as a director of coaching. I was there for seven years and did a few years at other clubs. I became a stay-at-home dad and as my kids got older, I wanted to get back into coaching.

“The Niwot job opened and I was lucky enough to get that. I was there for six years. We live near Silver Creek and when my son was going to be a freshman, the Silver Creek job opened up. I met with Marty (Tonjes) the Silver Creek AD, applied and got the job. I got to coach my son for two years until he decided to focus on music and swimming. This fall, my daughter will be a freshman so I am lucky I get to coach her as well.”

Who were some of your main coaching influences in high school, college, etc., and can you talk a bit about how they may have inspired you to become a coach yourself?

“I have been very lucky to work with some great coaches! Stan Jozwiak and Alex Herzog are two coaches that not only have I worked with, but I also played for.  Alex Herzog is the founder of FC Boulder. I was lucky enough to play for him and he was one of my mentors when I moved back from Kentucky to coach for FC Boulder. He gave me a great perspective on club soccer and the history of soccer in the Boulder area. Stan Jozwiak was my high school coach at Fairview and has always been the first one I go to with any coaching questions. He would be the first to tell you that I am a much better coach than I was a player. He guided me in so many ways and I will always be indebted to him.

“JB Belzer was the first person to give me a college job at Regis University. JB taught me how to organize and run a college program. Warren Lipka gave me my second college job at the University of Kentucky. Warren mentored me in all aspects of the game and taught me it was my job to mentor young coaches when it was time. My last influence was my wife, Laurie. She was a high school swim coach at Green Mountain. She was not a teacher so at the time you had to go to a class and get ASEP (American Sports Education Program) certified. This was a class that gave you some basic teaching and coaching concepts. We had just been married and she made me take it with her. I have been coaching some sport ever since then.”

In a profession that can have a lot of turnover and change, how do you see your future in coaching going? Is coaching at Silver Creek or at the high school level something you see yourself continuing to do long term or is there something else?

“I have been coaching since 1995. My first coaching job was for Boulder Volleyball Club. I have also coached youth basketball, been an assistant swim coach and did one season as the Niwot boys golf coach. I have coached soccer at almost every level from recreational kids (5- and 6-year-olds) to assistant coach at the Division-I collegiate level. This is my 10th year coaching high school soccer. Do I have another 10 years? I hope so. Stan Jozwiak did it for 33 years.”

Between Silver Creek, Niwot and St. Vrain FC, you’ve coached a ton of players who have come through the district over the past decade. What are your thoughts and takeaways on the quality of soccer in the area?

“The St. Vrain area has been very good for a long time. Steve Leeper, who was at Niwot and won a state title, did a great job of re-branding St. Vrain FC about 10 years ago. Cotton Burton, who was at Niwot before Steve, did a tremendous job of establishing Niwot as a top program in the state. Luis (Chavez) has been a force at Skyline for the last eight years! I hope I can do as good a job as these guys at Silver Creek so when you think of top programs in the state, you think of Silver Creek soccer.”

If you can pin it down, what is your favorite moment from coaching Silver Creek these past four years?

“That is a hard one! I think it has to be winning the second-round playoff game against Standley Lake with the boys this last fall. It is the first time in school history that they had ever made it past that round. The other one would have to be beating D’Evelyn in the quarterfinals last year for the girls. We were the eight seed and they were the number one.”

Daily Camera file photo
Coach Rob Johnson talks with his team at the start of practice at Silver Creek High School Monday afternoon.