By C. Clifford McCrath
Each year the Honor Award is given to a member of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America who has tenure of at least 20 years meritorious service to soccer and is known by his or her products, writings or assistance to the NSCAA.
Nominations and selections are submitted to a committee of 24 men and women who vote - independently, if not secretly - for the candidate they feel best fits the criteria. Though detailed, timely and laborious, that's the easy part.
The hard part is ensuring the candidate is in attendance and sleuthing in his or her family should they not otherwise be planning to attend. The reason for this is the time-honored tradition - set forth by the association's founding fathers - that the recognition be the premier event of the annual meeting ... and the award - the highest given by the association - a surprise to the recipient - as well as the voting members.
However, the almost impossible challenge for the committee, is trying to find the right words to describe each new awardee. Previous winners have been walking billboards for virtue, honor, integrity and a host of other qualities.
They bring enhanced meanings to words like leader, mentor, teacher and administrator. Their achievements have been mind boggling to say the least. So, given such an awesome tradition - and such a storied history of achievement - where do we begin with this year's winner?
From a statistical standpoint, his coaching career pales in comparison to the hall of fame numbers of most of his predecessors. At best it can be said that, though impressive, his won-loss record - 100 wins, 61 losses and 19 ties - was long on quality, short on quantity.
Indeed, as coaching careers go, his tenure - a mere dozen years - didn't begin until 1973 and was over in 1985. But, if coaching transcends sport, then what has transpired in the two decades since he put away his whistle, might well qualify him as a ''coach of coaches.'' However, it should be noted that he was a player - and has been in love with soccer all his life.
He was born July 11, 1947 in Rockaway Beach, N.Y., and started playing soccer at age 6. Along the way played for the Kollsman Soccer Club under the direction of legendary coach Hans Bayen and, later, moved with his family to Levittown, N.Y., where he starred for the Division Avenue High School team.
After graduation his playing career heated up when he matriculated at Mitchell Junior College and came under the mentorship of former NSCAA president Warren Swanson. After acquiring his Associate Arts degree from Mitchell, he transferred to Davis and Elkins College where, in 1970, he helped Dr. Greg Myers win the NAIA National Championship.
He graduated from Davis and Elkins in 1971 - with a Bachelor of Arts in English - and on August 12, 1972 - the day before he received his Masters of Education from West Virginia University - he lost his personal 'bachelor's' pedigree when he married the lovely Ruth Anne Delaney.
Ruth Anne claims she fell in love with him because he invited her for a ride on his Suzuki motorcycle. He had proposed to her at a pizza parlor and with all propriety asked her father for her hand in marriage. Her father said, ''We have been expecting this for quite some time and the answer is, No''!
He persisted and said, ''It is either with or without your blessing but we are going to be married!'' And in 1972, married they were.
In 1975 Henry William ''Hank'' and Ruth Anne Steinbrecher became the proud parents of their first son.
Their second son, William John Corey Steinbrecher - a name fashioned by each member of the family - was born in 1982, attended Glenbard West High School and chose to postpone college to become a professional bicycle racer with Team Jelly-Belly. Hank's professional career began at Mitchell College, where he served for one year as the Assistant Director of Admissions - which he didn't embrace that lovingly - but was near his beloved mentor, Warren Swanson, and played for the New Britain Soccer Club with close friend and former Honor Award winner Peter Gooding.
One year later he got his coaching start at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, N.C. The little known school, clearly, was not a soccer power. But it wasn't long before its opponents included some of the bigger names in soccer. Clemson, UNC, South Carolina and Indiana soon would know that Warren Wilson College - sounding more like the name of a presidential library - was a formidable soccer opponent, and its coach - a ranting, raving, never-say-die enthusiast - was more than just a cheerleader.
His vision for his team and his competitive approach to every challenge was not only the fire he brought with him from his life's journeys; it was the benchmark for greatness that one day would influence the very destiny of American soccer.
After four seasons at Warren Wilson, where he also served as Director of Athletics, he accepted the position as Associate Professor and Coach of Soccer at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.
Over the next three seasons he led the Mountaineers to a 33-10-2 record - which included an unmatched record of 20-0-0 in Southern Conference play.
In 1978 he was named the Southern Conference Coach of the Year as well as NSCAA Regional Coach of the Year. It was here he produced several All American players including Thompson Usiyan, Keith Layne and Emmanual Ebeka.
His next stop was Boston University where, over the next four years he led his team to the ECAC playoffs and produced additional All-Americans including Jose ''Che Che'' Vidal and Francis Okaroh who, this past year, was inducted into the Boston University Hall of Fame.
But other forces were at loose in the Boston area and in 1984 Hank was invited by the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee to become the Venue Director for the games at Harvard University.
To say it was good fortune for both Hank and the LAOOC is like saying that cheese goes well with pizza. He served under 1972 bronze medalist Bill Schmidt and proceeded to 'hit' grand slam home runs from sold out venues to fundraising, to greeting dignitaries, to ticket-taking and probably even grabbed a broom to help sweep up.
His administrative performances not only turned corporate and international heads, but left even the most energetic professionals gasping for breath. After the games, Bill Schmidt became Vice President of Sports Marketing with the Quaker Oats Company, and invited Hank to join him to help develop and market the Gatorade brand. Help is a sobriquet for Hank!
Over the next six years Hank wasMr. Gatorade. He negotiated contracts with sports leagues and teams, successfully launched Gatorade in a variety of international markets, devised integrated marketing promotions to increase sales volume and managed a sports marketing budget of a measly $52 million.
To no one's surprise but Hank, Mr. Alan Rothenberg came calling, and in 1990, a man named ''Hank'' became Secretary General and Executive Director of the United States Soccer Federation.
What happened over the next 11 years boggles the mind. And, if, indeed, coaching transcends sport, then what Hank Steinbrecher achieved as the ''head coach'' of the U.S. Soccer Federation, truly places him at the head of the pack.
It is impossible to cover all of his achievements in one tribute, but to name a few he was required to perform all the duties of the Chief Executive Officer for a corporation with 4 million members and revenues of over $30 million.
He developed a strategic business plan for US Soccer; inspired thousands of volunteers to develop grass-roots soccer programs; recruited, trained, motivated and retained a staff of 110 employees; supervised all financial and legal matters of the organization; served as public spokesman and official U.S. representative at scores of international competitions, meetings and symposia; maintained oversight and direction for international competition for the men's, women's, Olympic and World Cup teams and all youth competitions.
He developed revenue sources to support expanding programs through sponsorships, licensing and ticket sales; developed educational programs for coaches, referees and administrators, administered all corporate meetings of the Board of Directors and annual congress and, as one of the Founding fathers, prepared, designed and developed the political landscape for the non-profit United States Soccer Foundation, a body he continues to serve as a member of the Grants Committee.
During his tenure he also served on a host of FIFA Committees including the Olympic Committee, the Women's Football Committee, General Coordinator of the FIFA Youth World Cup in Argentina and Trinidad and FIFA's Security Group in Japan during the 2002 World Cup.
In a phrase: During the most critical phase of the United State's explosion onto the world soccer stage, a phase when, among all other assets, the country needed a leader and promoter to bring to fruition creditability and a desire to belong, our country's ''head coach'' was Hank Steinbrecher.
Yeah, verily, it wasn't Coach Hank; it was reverend Hank. Soccer America Magazine called him Reverend Hank and cited Hank's ambassadorial message ''Our Time Has Come'' as a motto that rang out in every stadium and through every page of US Soccer's march to glory.
It became the motto around which the USA rallied and made its impact on the world stage with its never-to-be-forgotten defeat of Colombia in the 1994 World Cup and continued with the women's 1996 Olympic gold and the men's stunning defeat against Portugal in the 2002 games.
And who will ever forget the roar - heard 'round the world - from the Rose Bowl when the women won their second world championship in 1999.
Clay Berling, founder of Soccer America, recalls being at the USSF Annual General meeting after the 1994 World Cup when Clay states that Hank delivered the most passionate speech of his career as General Secretary of the Federation.
In paragraph after paragraph, extolling the virtues of the game, the events of recent soccer history and its place in the culture of the United States, he would end each statement with ''Our Time Has Come.''
As the volume of his voice escalated, the hall fell more and more quiet, until, at the end, everyone rose in a thundering standing ovation. ''It was as if Moses had just come down from the mountain and saw the Promised Land.''
But it doesn't end there.
He serves a host of community organizations -- including the NSCAA's Foundation -- which he helped structure and continues to serve as a board member as well as providing a continuing service to countless programs that profit from his energy and expertise.
He never asks for praise and if a team of mules were hitched to his tongue they couldn't pull self-adulation from his being. He always deflects credit to others and always seems surprised by joy when recognition comes his way.
Nonetheless, credit is due and over the past several years credit has been given. In 1990 he received the NSCAA's distinguished Bill Jeffrey award. In 1992 he was elected to the Davis and Elkins Hall of Fame followed by the 1996 Hall of Fame induction into the NAIA Hall of Fame.
In the year 2000 he was inducted into the North Carolina Hall of Fame and in 2004 was elected as a Life Member of US Soccer. This past summer he was inducted into the United States Soccer Hall of Fame.
During those ceremonies the words dedication and devotion resounded throughout every tribute and the presenter's words were captured in the front page article in December's Scholastic Coach Magazine echoing as a lasting reminder of his impact on world soccer: ''Under the guidance of Hank Steinbrecher, the former Secretary General of the U.S. Soccer Federation, American soccer came of age!''
In 2001, Hank stepped down - but not that far away - from the US Federation and soccer's formal structure, to form his own company TouchLine Consultants, Inc., an international sports marketing and management consulting firm specializing in organizational management and product placement through global sports.
In addition, he serves as Chief Operating Officer for iSe-Hospitality AG, a Swiss-based sales and marketing company whose main visibility is providing Hospitality and Prestige Ticket Packages for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The company is a $750 million turnover company. But wait, there is a personal side!
Ruth Anne, his wife of 33 years, measured her words with quiet adoration when asked to sum him up: ''Integrity. Intelligence. He has a sense of humor and, in spite of some corny jokes now and then, is, truly, a funny man. He is not particularly patient and tends to lean a little to the 'left' politically, but he is a wonderful husband and father, not outwardly religious but a deeply spiritual man with a strong moral compass. Above all he is compassionate and if I am ever on a sinking ship I would want him by my side!''
Over 80 colleagues and associates - from around the world - contributed to a book in his honor. Nancy Haworth, the Editor-in-Chief, stamped the frontispiece with these words: ''This book is dedicated to an extraordinary player, coach, administrator, colleague, leader, teacher, visionary, builder and, most of all, friend.''
Viktor Frankl, upon his release from Auschwitz - in World War II - wrote a landmark book entitled ''Man's Search for Meaning'' in which his main theme was ''we have a right to choose our attitude.'' His benchmark quote - concerning man's meaning in life - has become an ageless reminder that great human beings are not born great; they make choices that history records and adopts for itself.
To wit, Frankl's quote, quite possibly, is all that needs to be said about tonight's Honor Award recipient. Frankl said: ''Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.''
Tonight's Honor Award recipient has given new meaning to life and responsible leadership in the world of soccer. And, it is my distinct personal privilege to present the NSCAA's 64th Annual Honor Award to a man whose ''own time has come'' - Henry William ''Hank'' Steinbrecher!