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‘An amazing coach and person’

Friends, family remember former high school soccer coach

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos

It was the sparkle in his eye that gleamed when his players asked for help.

The boom of his voice that echoed across the soccer field when he cheered.

And the radiating smile that graced his face when he spoke about soccer.

These are the little things friends and family will miss about Michael “Mick” Havrilla, because these are the qualities that made him a soccer coach to remember.

Havrilla coached high school soccer for four years.

He passed away July 20 after suffering from multiple myeloma for three years.

“You could hear his voice from anywhere on the soccer field,” said Steve Bergquist, father of a former player for Mick. “It was a comforting sound. You didn’t have to worry if Mick was there.”

Those who knew him said Havrilla had a presence about him on and off the soccer field.

And when one asks who Mick Havrilla is, friends like Jeannette Berguist will answer: He was a man who had a zest and passion for soccer.

Former assistant coach Richard Thompson said it was his aura that attracted people.

“He had such a bubbly personality and was always so happy,” Thompson said. “This pushed his players to give that little bit extra.”

That extra was watching game film at Havrilla’s house in the evening and improving each player’s individual skills every chance he had.

“He never gave up on you,” Thompson said.

He gave everyone a chance to prove they could start the next game or score the game-winning goal.

“It wasn’t about winning for Mick. Coaching for him was about giving every kid a chance,” Thompson said. “He motivated his players to play different positions and learn the fundamentals of soccer.”

Jake Bilodeau, a two-year player for Mick, learned the skills from his coach.

“He was a skills coach and didn’t have the run and gun mentality,” Bilodeau said. “He took the time to teach us.”

While beating rivals Steam-boat Springs for the first time in school history was something that encouraged him as a coach, building trust between himself and his players was more important.

If a player couldn’t build up the courage to ask a girl to prom, Havrilla was there to calm his nerves.

And if troubles at home kept a player from performing on the field, Havrilla always had an open house and a shoulder to lean on.

Havrilla was a teacher to whom students could go when math equations seemed like a foreign language for some.

“The kids went to Mick with all of their problems because he was there to listen and help,” Bergquist. “He was a friend to his players, and they respected him.”

This is the reason you would never hear his players speak badly of Havrilla, Steve said.

“You would never hear any of the kids complain about playing time or being yelled at,” Steve said. “Because he had a higher level of knowledge about soccer that they didn’t, and Mick was right.”

Havrilla balanced his coaching.

“One minute he could be yelling at a player words of advice, the next minute his arm around them with words of encouragement,” Bergquist said, “That is why he was such an amazing coach and person.”

Havrilla’s funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at Saint Michaels Catholic Church, 678 School Street.

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos can be reached at 824-7031 or at mkraftopoulos@craigdailypress.com


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