Butte High programs need assistant coaches
By Bill Foley
Steve Shahan was ready to switch things up a bit.
“I figured after 10 years of middle school football I was ready for a little change,” Shahan said after a track practice Thursday at the Charlie Merrifield Track.
A couple of months ago, Shahan accepted the job as head coach of Butte High’s girls’ soccer program. His hiring has been approved by the school board.
The popular Butte High assistant basketball and soccer coach replaces Jacob Steilman, who resigned after two seasons to continue his education.
Shahan, 41, is a 1998 graduate of Colstrip High School. He played football at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota.
For the past six school years, the health and physical education teacher at East Middle School has been an assistant with the Bulldogs. He has been a track assistant all six years. He coached four years under Luke Powers in the Butte High boys’ basketball program.
After a year off to work on his master’s degree, Shahan coached the Bulldog girls’ junior varsity team this past season under Maury Cook.
“He has everything organized,” Shahan said of Cook, who recently announced his retirement. “He is super artistic, and that is something I don’t have so much of.”
Shahan said he will take lessons from Cook and all the other many coaches he has worked with.
“All of that helps,” he said. “You take some from everybody, and some of the things are what not to do. You look at things and say, ‘This isn’t going to help us. This is.’”
Shahan was a teacher and coach in North Dakota when he moved to the Mining City before the 2015-16 school year to work with Powers, a Butte native whom Shahan coached against. He jumped at the chance to move back to Montana.
“I was done with North Dakota,” Shahan said. “I was leaving one way or another. I was looking for Mountains.”
While he did not play high school soccer, Shahan has experience with the sport as a youth and in college.
“When I was playing football at Black Hills State, I broke my wrist and needed surgery,” he said. “I couldn’t play that fall, so I joined the club team. I played a season of club soccer and it was a lot of fun.”
As head coach, Shahan said one of his biggest jobs is to get more players out for soccer.
“We’ve got to get the participation up,” he said. “Our numbers are low, and they’re low across the board. We’ve got to get those trending in the right direction.”
In addition to growing the numbers, he said the Bulldogs will work on athletic development and skill development.
“If we can all three of those and do it in a fun matter, I think all of sudden the numbers fix themselves and you’re a lot more competitive,” Shahan said. “A lot of good things happen if you can start it there.”
Getting players to keep playing soccer once they start is also key, Shahan said.
“We’re going to do the summer camps and all the kind of normal stuff, and then we’re going to look at some out-of-the box ideas to kind of bridge that gap after the YMCA soccer to the high school soccer,” he said. “You get the families who love it and invest in club soccer, but there are so many kids who can’t afford it.”
Shahan said he will try to take advantage of his years as a teacher and his summer job as assistant manager at the Ridge Waters water park to recruit players.
The coach will also try to recruit a full-time assistant coach for his program. That is more important than in other years because the Bulldog boys’ and girls’ programs will both be all hands on deck to help cover for boys’ coach Cody Carpenter.
Carpenter will likely have to miss time this fall as he tends to his seventh-grade son Kyler, who is battling cancer in Salt Lake City. Kyler recently began a 30-week chemotherapy program for his form of bone cancer.
“We pretty much told him, ‘Whatever we’ve got to do to help out,’” Shahan said.
That could mean Shahan running or helping with some boys’ practices. It could also mean former coach Eric Zahler could help out from time to time after football practice.
Even with that, Shahan said more assistants for both programs would be ideal.
Shahan said he started thinking about putting in for the position last summer because he knew Steilman would be moving on. He said he is glad he decided to make the jump.
“I’m excited,” Shahan said. “It is going to be fun.”