Denver Bar Association
November 2001
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Soccer Coach/Litigator Makes it Come Together

by Matthew Kristofco

 

Coaching the Silly Gorillas.

Denver attorney Wesley Howard is a busy man. By day, he is a mild mannered commercial litigator, director and secretary of the Board of Directors of Brega & Winters P.C., a downtown firm. By night, he is the inspiring coach of the Denver Soccer Club team, "The Silly Gorillas."

Born in Omaha, Neb., Howard did not spend his youth as a soccer hooligan drinking pints of bitters and watching Manchester United play in the English Premier League. In fact, he did not even play soccer until 1979, when he signed up to play with fellow law students at the University of Denver College of Law. Once he had discovered the sport though, Howard was hooked.

After graduating from D.U. Law School in 1979 and completing a judicial clerkship with Jean Breitenstein on the United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, Howard went to work in Santa Fe, NM. Not only did he meet his wife-to-be Patti there, but it was in Santa Fe that he began his soccer coaching career. One afternoon, he accompanied then-girlfriend, Patti, to her soccer practice. Patti played on an amateur team made up of fellow nurses. At practice, it was discovered that the club was in need of a coach. When the team suggested that Howard coach, he hesitated, saying that he had no experience. Undaunted, the team assured Howard that experience was not required and that their previous "coach" only came to their practices so he could drink beer and make out with his girlfriend. Howard was confident he could at least duplicate such an effort.

Wes Howard at the CBA Institute this year in Vail

Howard got involved with Denver youth soccer the same way that many youth coaches do. He wanted his children to play, and he wanted to spend time with his children. In 1993, Howard was interested in getting his then- 4-year-old son Alex onto an instructional club. As he began searching for a team in his Washington Park neighborhood, Howard discovered that there was no league for 4-year-olds in Denver. Inspired by frustration, Howard created an instructional league for them.

Although he created an entirely new instructional soccer league, he was not finished changing the complexion of Denver youth soccer. Through the years of rooting for and coaching Alex and daughter Libby, Howard noticed that suburban teams had unified approaches to soccer, where children would play for the same team as they aged and developed. He noticed this approach led to continuity and allegiances, which were missing from the Denver teams. At the time, Denver had four wholly independent soccer clubs. His vision was to transform Denver into a unified soccer club.

In 1998, Howard was the driving force behind the creation of the Denver Soccer Club (DSC), a merger of the city’s four independent soccer clubs. Now Denver has a unified system with both instructional and competitive teams. Roughly 2,500 children now play for the DSC. Howard served as the DSC’s first President and has served on its Board of Directors ever since. Currently, he is the Chairman of the Developmental Committee.

Howard is still actively coaching youth soccer. When his daughter Libby joined "The Silly Gorillas" soccer club five years ago, Howard signed on as the team’s coach. Howard says that coaching "The Silly Gorillas" is a way to maintain balance in his busy professional life and relieve the stress incumbent upon a commercial litigator. "There are days when I can’t wait to leave the office and get to the practice field."

"The lessons learned on the soccer field are lessons for life," says Howard. "Some of these kids will never play another sport in their lives, but the lessons learned of teamwork, determination and perseverance will be carried by all the players throughout their lives." Howard has found balance between professional success and personal fulfillment, and the soccer players of Denver have benefited.


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