Longtime Victoria soccer coach Eaton humbled by tournament namesake

Jan. 17, 2013 at 11:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 17, 2013 at 7:18 p.m.

Tim Eaton.

Tim Eaton.   Jonathan Hinderliter for The Victoria Advocate

If there is a soccer game in the Victoria area, there is always the possibility of a Tim Eaton sighting.

This weekend, Victoria will host half a dozen soccer games, which will be enough to whet the appetite of the longtime area soccer coach.

"To be around him, you can tell he's happy to be there," said Matt Blough, president of the Victoria Youth Soccer Organization, VYSO, and a former pupil of Eaton's. "If he has a kid who is now coaching, he'll go watch one of his players coach. He'll come out and watch soccer games."

Though the Tim Eaton Invitational is in his honor, Eaton is the type who will deflect the credit to his players.

"It's 80 minutes of creative decision-making," Eaton said. "We don't teach them to make this decision or that decision. They have to make the decision. It's not only for them but their team. That's also the case in life. It may not be their team but their family."

When Victoria West soccer coach Bill Tally told Eaton about the six-game showcase in his honor weeks ago, the former Victoria High, Memorial and Victoria East coach thought Tally was kidding.

Indeed he wasn't.

"We joke around a lot, so I thought he was joking around," Eaton said of his conversation with Tally. "When Coach (Ron) Davis said something, I said 'I better check on that.' It's a real honor, but it's a bigger honor for all the players that played for me in the past. If I didn't have such a great group of kids, I wouldn't be coaching that long."

The Ohio native, who was a forward at Ashland University, coached high school soccer for a couple years in Chardon, Ohio before moving to Victoria in 1980. Eaton's hometown was Mentor, a suburb of Cleveland on the shore of Lake Erie.

"Tim is a very humble person," said VISD Athletic Director Ralph Escalona, who was instrumental in re-establishing a boys soccer tournament in Victoria and naming it after Eaton. "He might have told me, 'You didn't have to do this,' or 'I don't deserve this.' He's very humble but very deserving of having this tournament named in his honor."

Since he was named the Victoria High soccer coach in the 1989-90 school year, Eaton won more than 250 games and qualified for the playoffs in 20 consecutive seasons. In that stretch, his teams qualified for a regional final in 2001 and the regional quarterfinals last spring.

"He's for kids, and that's what made him such a great coach," Escalona said. "Kids loved playing for him because he's so humble."

Eaton's final team won the District 59-4A championship and went 18-4-2 before bowing out to Pharr Valley View. East lost that game 1-0 on a late goal.

Current Titans boys soccer coach Bobby Ramos remembers that game well because he was there. Ramos was an assistant referee for that 2012 regional quarterfinal match in Corpus Christi.

"His teams have always worked hard and been well organized," Ramos said about facing Eaton's teams, noting his predecessor always got the most of the players on his roster. "They have been conservative, but aggressive when the time allows it."

Ramos, who previously coached at San Antonio McArthur and San Antonio Lee, has crossed paths against Eaton's teams twice in his career. His McArthur team tied Memorial 2-2 in the 2002 Crossroads Classic, and his Lee team beat East in New Braunfels two years ago.

"Tim has been doing this a long time," Ramos said. "He's well-respected in the coaching community. He made a lot of friends in our profession. The game of soccer is losing a great role model, a tremendous coach and a great person. What' I'm trying to do is pick up where he left off, albeit in my own way."

East is 1-3-1 through five games as it adjusts to a new system and heavy graduation losses.

Eaton's final team was loaded with seniors. This year's bunch has some holdovers in Ricky Stratmann, Wyatt Fimbel, Pablo Aviles, Jacob Lopez, Jose Oviedo and others. Eaton said he's ecstatic that "someone that knowledgeable" is the Titans head coach.

The two-day tournament will be a round robin featuring East, West, Bay City and Beeville.

Eaton will likely make an appearance at the tournament this weekend, not only because it's a soccer game in Victoria but also because he wants to keep track of his Titans.

"It's not what you do for yourself but what you do for others that counts, I think is the real thing," Eaton said. "How my dad would say it is, 'Receive without forgetting and give without remembering.'"

There are a lot of people who will not forget Eaton's influence. Blough, is among them.

"He is my role model, my idol and someone I've always looked up to," Blough said. "When he's coaching, he's quiet. He's observing and watching the game. He's not Will Ferrell in 'Kicking and Screaming.'"

"He's very cool during games. I've strived to be like him with the way he acts during games and with kids. He's one heck of a role model, whether he's on the field or off the field."

St. Joseph soccer coach Omar Amaral was an Eaton player. Michelle Stanford and Alexis Salazar, both former players, coach at the club level, while Tally, Arlington Martin head coach Brady Cagle and Frenship head coach Eric Eugenis are all former Eaton assistants who have gone into coaching at the varsity level.

"For Coach Eaton, I think he has developed soccer the way it is in Victoria," Cagle told the Advocate in a June 2012 interview. "Back in the day, it wasn't that great. He has developed the program to what it is now, even from the little kids at VYSO. He's everywhere. He's taught me all the tools and everything. Where I am now is because of him."

Cagle was on the sidelines for Eaton's final two varsity season. The longtime coach retired from coaching last spring but continues to teach at Victoria East.

Recovering from his left hip replacement surgery last month, Eaton is scheduled to have his right hip done in March. Later in his career, as he observed games from the sidelines, his wife used to joke that if a stretcher came onto the field, she was never sure if it was for a player or Eaton.

"When you look at the graduation rate we've had, it's been fantastic," Eaton said of his former soccer pupils. "When you look at the education at our schools, I think they have done a great job with what they have accomplished. It's not just the winning, but they are winners in life."



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