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Talk about starting the season off on the right foot. Hardaway High School boys head soccer coach Rick Iden had some unfinished business to attend to going into the season opener Monday against Central (Phenix City) High School.
He would have rather been at work on Presidents Day in order to take his mind off it, but instead tried to pass the time watching TV.
I cant even remember what I was watching, Iden said during pregame warm-ups. Ill be glad to get it over with so we can focus on the season.
This wasnt just another game; it had significance 300 games worth.
Iden entered the game with 299 career wins as Hardaways head coach and left Garrett-Harrison Stadium with a 300 milestone and a 3-0 shutout over the Red Devils.
I feel sky high right now, Iden said after the game.
Hardaway lost last year in the second round of the playoffs, forcing Iden and his team to wait the offseason to celebrate No. 300. He said he was more disappointed the teams championship hopes were ended than about the milestone.
(It wasnt) that I didnt get to 300, but I thought we could have advanced further in the playoffs than we did, he said. I think it was better to have it this way (at the beginning of the season). Last year, it was hanging over us.
A lot of memories come with 300 wins, and Iden got to share them Monday night with his coaching staff and players, past and present. Several players from Idens teams in the mid-1990s witnessed the game and congratulated their former coach afterward.
I can call my old guys and talk to them and they make me feel like a million bucks, he said.
Iden began coaching at Hardaway in 1993 and had never previously coached soccer. He came to the school as an assistant football coach and each assistant was required to coach a secondary sport, he said.
What he found was a talent pool that only needed motivation.
I looked at soccer and said, Theyre loaded. I couldnt screw this up if I tried, he said.
His former players acknowledged that he wasnt a soccer expert at that time, but made up for it in discipline and work ethic.
Coach always conditioned us, said 38-year-old Torrey Wiley, who played in Idens first year. We were always in better shape than anyone else on that field. The success he started continued. It just never stopped.
Iden wants to see it continue through as many generations as possible. For him, the most rewarding thing about coaching is seeing his players apply what hes taught them to adulthood, he said.
Theyve become successful in business, in life and as dads and husbands, he said about his former players. Hopefully well see (my current players) turn out the same way.
The wins are their wins. They can look back on this and say, We did something really special. Every player that has left this field has been a part of something special. Its about them and its always been about them.