By Bill Foley
Jacob Steilman didn’t see himself as the long-term answer for Butte High’s search for a leader of the Butte High girls’ soccer program.
The 22-year-old Butte High graduate, after all, has impressive plans for his career as he eyes the final days of working for his undergraduate degree at Montana Western in Dillon.
After graduation, Steilman is going to graduate school or join the military.
When nobody else put in for the job, however, Steilman decided to step up for his alma mater. He accepted the job as head coach last week. His hire has to be approved by the school board at the next meeting, but that move is seen as a formality.
“I’m hoping I can maybe get two years,” said Steilman, who will again commute to Dillon for school. “That is kind why I was waiting to see if someone would throw in their hat.”
Steilman assisted former coach Riley McNabb when he coached the boys’ and girls’ teams two years ago. Then he assisted McNabb when he coached just the girls’ team last season.
McNabb stepped down this spring to focus on his education.
“I think they’re in good hands,” former Butte High soccer coach Eric Zahler said of the selection of Steilman. “He knows the game inside and out, and I’ve watched him grow as a coach and study the game.”
At Butte High, Steilman was part of the 2013 Bulldog team that advanced to the Class AA State tournament.
“He was a great kid, smart kid, good student and good soccer player,” Zahler said.
Since he has been coaching soccer in Butte since he graduated from high school in 2015, Steilman knows the program and the players well.
“He’ll do a great job,” said Butte High Activities Director Chuck Merrifield. “He has a great temperament for it. He sure did a nice job when he was with Riley.”
As an assistant, Steilman has been coaching the junior varsity teams. So, the coach expects there to be continuity for the team, even though it was hit hard by graduation. A lot of the concepts and terminology will be the same.
“I think that’s pretty important,” Steilman said. “There’s some turnover from last year. Last year’s was a good team.
“There was a lot of growth over the last two years,” the coach said. “We lost a lot of players, but we have five returning starters. They have the potential to keep on growing. That’s what it’s all about.”
New Butte High coach Cody Carpenter, who was hired in May, said the plan is for the boys’ and girls’ programs to work together closely.
“I like the idea of that, too,” Steilman said. “We started doing it already. Yesterday we had open field. It will be interesting. I’m looking forward to it.”
Steilman said the Bulldogs will step up their open fields work starting next week. The Bulldogs open the season Aug. 31 at home against Kalispell Flathead.