Jeff Fierro has received the baton, so to speak, as head coach of the Rapid City Stevens boys' soccer program.
The longtime Stevens sprint coach for the track team will now also move up from his role as the soccer team's assistant coach, one he held since the program's beginning in the sanctioned South Dakota High School Activities Association five years ago.
Fierro will take over for Dave Sharp, who resigned after the past season to stay as director of coaching for the Black Hills Rapids.
He began with the Raiders as Jacob Meyer's assistant in the 2014-15 season.
"Obviously I am very familiar with the program in the last five years," he said. "Jacob Meyer and myself, we kind of started it from the bottom, from scratch. We both decided we wanted a character, team-culture environment, in addition to piggybacking off some other programs that do the same thing, like the Stevens track team. We really like that idea.
"We tried to go out and win games, but at the same time focused on a being a team of character and redefining what it means to be a champion or a team of significance. It's not just about wins and losses, that's not the only way to measure your success."
Fierro said that being on the ground floor of that, it made sense to continue it when Sharp came on board.
"He really liked the idea too. It makes for a pleasant experience for everybody — the players and the coaches," he said.
Fierro is also currently in his 19th season as the Stevens track sprint coach.
The Raiders struggled somewhat in comparison to the previous four seasons, going 6-3-2, losing to eventual champion Sioux Falls Washington in the state quarterfinals.
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Stevens won a state title in 2015 and was the state runner-up in 2016.
"In the five seasons, we were a top-four team in four years, so we feel pretty good about what we have going here," Sharp said. "The athletes that come to us are good, accomplished and battle tested. The club program (Black Hills Rapids) in our area is just phenomenal, it's extremely good. These guys get a lot of skill building, and they play a lot. I feel fortunate that we do have such a strong club program."
Like all assistants who become head coaches, Fierro said he probably has a few new ideas to work with, but for the most part, since he was part of things from the start, a lot of peripheral things will stay similar.
"A couple changes here and there, but I really liked what Coach Sharp brought to the program, his idea of day-to-day training and practices, getting the guys prepared for what we want to do," he said. "I'll definitely be borrowing some of that."
One thing that won't change will be the Raiders being in top notch shape. Fierro, with his track background, was basically in charge of getting the team in shape.
Speed is important in soccer and with the Raiders.
"The conditioning side of things is kind of where my expertise is," he said. "That kind of stuff certainly won't change. We talk about preparation, and tactically you want to know your goal on the field, know where you are supposed to be and what you are supposed to do. But also, we have always had a lot of pride in our fitness, our conditioning and our training. We've always tried to be the team that is in the best shape no matter who we are playing."
The Raiders lost seven seniors to graduation, and are expected to have seven juniors coming up for their final season.
"It will be hard to replace those guys, but we'll also have a new crop of seniors coming in," he said. "We had a really solid group of sophomores and freshmen, and even a couple of good eighth graders. I feel like we will reload and go after them again."