By Michael Dashiell
Olympic Peninsula News Group
SEQUIM — In the past 24 seasons under head coach Dave Brasher, Sequim High School’s boys soccer blossomed from a struggling program to a perennial playoff contender.
The best part of the process for the three-time league Coach of the Year came somewhat unexpectedly, in between matches.
“You have a million things going in your life, things are tough, you’ve got to go to a practice [and] it’s pouring rain,” he said. “Once you get there start kicking the ball around with the kids … it’s so fun to see smiles on their faces, see the excitement of playing good soccer. You forget all the difficulties you’re going through. For those few hours of the day, it’s gone.
“That’s probably what I’ll miss the most.”
With two dozen seasons behind him — and in its wake, an undefeated campaign and fifth state tourney appearance in 2019 — Brasher said it’s a good time to step down from the program.
“Part of what I enjoyed with soccer is being involved and playing with the kids [and showing moves and techniques],” he said. “I’m just getting a little too old to do that. My hope is that I’ve built up enough soccer knowledge [in the program that] maybe someone can take the program a little bit farther.”
Brasher says he’s also considering going back to coach younger players. He also has a new granddaughter he hopes to spend time with … and perhaps teach her the game in coming years.
Friends say Brasher’s become an institution for Sequim soccer, and the numbers make a good case: a 215 wins (compared to 163 losses, with 30 ties), 15 postseason appearances, two district titles and five state tourney berths.
That didn’t happen by accident, Sequim junior varsity coach Ken Garling said.
Garling, who met Brasher about 15 years ago working with the Sequim Junior Soccer program and joined the Sequim High coaching staff seven seasons ago, said the program bloomed thanks in large part to Brasher’s vision, drive and study of Sequim soccer as a whole.
“You have to have consistency,” Garling said. “Dave did such a great job with other coaches that have that same drive and passion.”
Brasher maintained strong connections with the youth programs through the years, from the Sequim Junior Soccer through select Storm King teams Brasher helped charter in the early 2000s.
“[It was] building that culture of soccer from the youth up, getting people indoctrinated into the skills at an early age and tactics as they get older,” Brasher said.
“The past two or three years, especially the kids who’ve grown up in Storm King, they come into the high school program with the skills we don’t have spend time teaching. The first ten years time we spent a lot of time on the basics.”
Garling said Brasher would consistently communicate with other coaches at the younger levels and attend numerous youth games.
“He wanted to keep an eye … for that future generation,” Garling said. “[That helped] being really integrated with local Storm King Program, using that as a pipeline [for the high school team]. Dave was an important part with development of the programs a whole. He’s done a great job keeping that momentum going.”
Earlier than expected
Brasher said he was hoping to eventually work himself into the high school coaching position by the time his boys Vann and Noah entered high school in the early 2000s. Opportunity came knocking early and often, however.
In 1992, when his oldest son Vann was about 6, he attended a Sequim Junior Soccer meeting and wound up being elected the organization’s president.
“I just wanted to get my boys involved in soccer,” he recalled.
Brasher also started coaching a recreational program — Sequim didn’t have a traditional select program at the time — with U-16 and U-17 teams traveling to play teams in Port Angeles, Bremerton and Tracyton.
In 1996 then-coach Kevin Magner stepped down. Brasher recalled that Sequim athletic director Rick Kaps and principal Mike Johnson asked him to step into the role.
“I knew some of the boys when I started at the high school [but it was] the first time they had seen higher level competition,” Brasher said.
The Wolves struggled for wins in Brasher’s first six seasons, going 2-14 in 1996, 4-10-2 in 1997, 5-11 in 1998 and 5-8-3 in 1999 before back-to-back 4-11-1 marks in 2000 and 2001.
“The school’s always had good athletes, even back then … but I had to get parents used to the idea [that] it’s a big world of soccer,” Brasher said. “There were some strong programs: North Kitsap, Olympic, Central Kitsap, Bainbridge, they all had good programs, good teams.”
The Sequim coach said he had a simple aim for his players: have fun.
“That’s what I try to encourage,” Brasher said. “Very few are going to go to the next level. I want the four years of high school to be memorable. I remember [former player] Evan Still telling the kids, ‘The four years are going to go by so fast; enjoy every minute you’re out there.’”
The concentration on youth programs and a second Storm King squad started to pay off in a big way. Led by all-league first-teamers Elliott Watson, Michael Carbis and Kyle McKenzie, second-team stars Joe Quan and Luke Apple, and a future league MVP in Brasher’s oldest son, Vann, Sequim racked up a 9-1-2 Nisqually League record and a league title.
“That was the first group that had played high level; that probably also helped,” Brasher said.
Sequim topped Clover Park in a district tourney play-in game that season before finally falling to Mount Rainier, finishing 10-3-3, and Brasher won the first of his three league Coach of the Year honors.
The program remained a perennial league contender in the ensuing 17 seasons, with Sequim finishing with a sub-.500 record just twice (2012, 2017) and missing the postseason only three times.
“He’s definitely a players coach,” Garling said of Brasher. “He’s really big on personal responsibility: each kid has to come and be ready to go, but he lets them be themselves within that framework. He genuinely cares, not only about the program but the kids.”
Sequim earned its first state tourney appearance in 2004 after racking up a 13-1-1 league mark, and made state appearances in 2009, 2010, 2018 and this spring.
Brasher said it’s hard to pick the best team he’s coached.
“I’ve enjoyed them all,” he said. “The 2004 was toughest team, just gritty … but skills-wise, these last two teams [2018 and 2019] were probably best.”
The retiring coach also had high praise for a 2009 squad that, with a strong defense spearheaded by keeper Matt Bedinger went 12-2-1, won the district title and earned a state tourney berth.
In the process, Brasher oversaw a deep talent pool, coaching three league MVPs (Apple, Vann Brasher, Liam Harris) and during his 24-season career saw 71 players earn spots on all-league lists — 39 of them with at least one first team selection.
Brasher also got to fulfill his dream of coaching both sons on Sequim High teams.
“All three of us had a great time — we’d come home, debrief about the games,” Brasher said. “We kind of learned together.”
Both of Vann and Noah continue to play recreation soccer into their 30s, he said.
Brasher also noted he had a strong relationship with Sequim High principals and four athletic directors — Kaps, Mark Textor, Chris Olson, Dave Ditlefsen — during his tenure.
“In 24 years I think I got both Textor and [Sequim principal Shawn] Langston to appreciate soccer just a little bit,” Brasher joked.
“I’ve been real happy with the administration at the high school; I think they’re very supportive,” Brasher said. “I never had any issues with the administration or staff. There have been a lot of great people involved, [particularly] parents.”
Brasher leaves the program in strong stead, with 10-plus wins in three of the past four seasons. The 2019 Wolves went unbeaten in league play and 15-2-2 overall, while the junior varsity program went 11-0-1 in league play and 14-1-1 overall.
“[Those are] pretty huge shoes to fill; he is definitely going to be missed,” Garling said. “We’re just there to emulate what he started.”