The John F. Kennedy soccer program is going in a new direction.
After 30 years as boys and girls soccer coach, Tom Rapp was not retained at the end of the school year.
"I'm stunned and hurt by that decision," Rapp said. "I wish the program nothing but the best. But, I'm hurt."
In his place are two fresh faces.
Bob O’Connell, 34, will take over the boys program.
Rob Madison, 26, will lead the girls program.
Both are rookie coaches but both showed enough in the interview process that Kennedy athletics director Joe Walterbach felt they would be excellent additions.
“We didn’t know if we were going to hire one person for the boys and girls or two people,” Walterbach said. “After we interviewed both of them we thought we had two really good candidates.”
Madison, a 2006 Kennedy graduate, will be an assistant coach for the boys team, too.
He graduated from Truman State in 2010 after playing two years of college soccer. He spent the past two years as a coach in the program and was a varsity assistant for the boys and girls during the last school year.
"It feels like a dream come true," Madison said. "I'm excited. When I graduated I always felt like I wanted to come back and coach at Kennedy. Graciously Coach Rapp called me and offered me a spot in his program and kind of guided me through it. I was fortunate to learn a lot."
O’Connell graduated from De Smet in 1998 and played at St. Louis University for four years. He will begin his 12th year as a teacher at St. Louis U. High this fall and had been an assistant soccer coach there.
O’Connell said his soccer experience was shaped by his coaches. His Busch Soccer Club coach, Tom Holmes, was the first coach that really made a significant impression upon him. At De Smet, legendary coach Greg Vitello taught lessons that went beyond the pitch. O’Connell said that, aside from his father, Vitello was the most influential person in his life.
“He taught me more about understanding a role, playing for the good of the team and knowing your strengths and weakness,” O’Connell said. “I wish more people I played with at St. Louis U. played for a guy like Vitello.”
O’Connell and Madison have been given the reins to a program that has been guided by Rapp since 1984. During his tenure Rapp was, according to the Missouri Soccer Coaches Association, 324-353-55 with the boys, won one state title and advanced to three final fours. The Celts captured the 1986 Class 1A-3A championship and finished third in 2009 and fourth in 2010.
On the girls side, the Missouri Soccer Coaches Association has Rapp’s record at 343-269-43. He led the Celts to two state semifinal appearances. They lost the 1986 title match to Notre Dame 3-2 in triple overtime. Kennedy finished fourth in 1994.
Rapp retired from teaching at Kennedy five years ago. Kennedy’s weight room is named for Rapp.
“His accomplishments over the years speak for themselves,” Walterbach said. “It kind of came to a point where we felt this was the right time to make a change.”