After arguments with officials led to some cards being issued in Redmond High’s boys soccer’s season-opening draw, the Panthers’ new coach started the next day’s practice by politely letting the players know things have changed.

Scott Lee is trying to send a message of respect to everyone. If they want to question the official’s call, do it in a respectful way.

“It’s going to be a lot more beneficial for the refs and for us,” Lee told the Spokesman Sept. 4.

Lee has a big task turning around the Panthers. The team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2011 and its 1-8-1 Intermountain Conference record (3-9-1 overall) in 2018 was its best since rival Ridgeview opened in 2012.

To Lee, that involves more than teaching set pieces and 50-50 balls. It means turning around the culture and trying to make the players better people.

“Just because somebody else is doing something, doesn’t mean you have to,” he said. “If that kid on the other team is talking trash, you can be better than that. That’s something I don’t think they’ve heard enough.”

Lee, who teaches math at Obsidian Middle School as his day job, spent several years coaching junior varsity soccer at Mazama High in Klamath Falls. He played club soccer at Washington State University and then played several years in a league in South Korea, while working as an English teacher there.

“It gave us something to do on Saturdays and Sundays and was a chance to meet people,” Lee said. “I always tried to get involved with soccer, because that was my thing.”

Lee went to Korea because it gave him a chance to travel the world after graduating college — with an apartment paid for, he said.

Lee has long wanted to come to Central Oregon to teach, he said. He loves the mountains and other features of the area. He was named Redmond’s coach over the summer after a long search.

“I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else, to be honest,” he said.

Since taking over as coach, Lee has been meeting with seniors, looking to get them to be leaders on the team.

“I’ve thought about ‘What is my goal?’ and it comes back to I want the seniors to be happy with their senior season and to leave the program better than it was when they got here,” he said.

It’s tough to determine how the Panthers will do before they see the teams face to face, Lee said.

“You can see them on the website, but, until you see them on the field, it doesn’t matter what their record is,” he said.”If they don’t bring their intensity and their passion, it’s not going to matter.”

So far, Lee has been pleased with the play of his seniors, especially captains Eric Cardona, Owen Byrnes and Jonny Najera. Byrnes scored both Panther goals in their first regular season match, a 2-2 Sept. 3 draw against La Pine. Redmond is scheduled to play again Tuesday at Lebanon.

While the team has seen some struggles getting ready for the season, Najera, a midfielder, said the Panthers are getting used to Lee’s system and are starting to grow.

“If we just work at practice a lot, I think we have a chance to compete with the rest of the teams,” Najera said. “Maybe not win all our games, but we’re on target to compete and win as many games as possible.”

T.J. Thrasher, an assistant coach in his fourth season with the Panthers, said Lee is working on generating interest in boys soccer. Redmond has only 18 players in the program, preventing it from fielding a junior varsity team. That means freshmen have to join the varsity, instead of getting minutes in development.

“I feel like he’s really trying to encourage kids to come out and is making it fun,” Thrasher said. “He’s been trying to reach out to kids who may be on the fence a little bit.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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