As a longtime soccer player and coach, Skip Collins always knew that officials had a difficult job.
But now, after spending the last two years working matches for the Salem Soccer Referees Association, Collins has a deeper appreciation for officials as he takes over as the girls coach at 4A Stayton.
“That's part of the reason I wanted to do it was to understand how they feel and what's going on,” Collins said. “I'll tell you this, my mouth stays closed a lot more. I think every coach should go through something like that.”
It's all part of a fresh outlook that Collins will bring in his return to the game. He hasn't coached since a highly successful four-year run at Cascade (2014-17), where he led the Cougars into the 4A final in his first season and went on to compile a 42-11-8 record with two Oregon West Conference titles before stepping down.
“I needed a break. I had been coaching for 20 years,” Collins said. “I wanted to recharge my battery, take a couple years.”
At Stayton, he replaces Devin Holmes, who left to become the women's coach at Chemeketa Community College. Holmes went 22-6-3 in two seasons, winning the Oregon West title and reaching the state quarterfinals in 2018.
“I just decided that it's time to go back,” said Collins, who has worked as a business development manager for a transportation company for 15 years. “I think there's going to be a lot of success for Stayton in the next couple years. I'm really excited to be a part of it.”
Collins, who grew up in Visalia, Calif., played in college at Western Baptist (now Corban University) and had a semi-pro career. He assisted the Salem Academy boys and was head coach for the Western Mennonite boys (now Western Christian), going 9-12-3 in two seasons (2000-01).
He was the girls coach at North Salem for four seasons (2007-10), going 10-38-8 and leading the Vikings into the state playoffs (2010) for the first time in school history.
He ran a youth program for a few seasons before landing at Cascade, where he coached his daughter, Nyah. Despite his success with the Cougars, he has no regrets about stepping away after only four seasons.
“It was something that needed to be done, for my personal life, to slow down and start paying attention to my own kids again,” Collins said. “It was a perfect time to recharge and refocus, and be with people who matter and who I care about.”
Collins has five children (ages 12 to 20) – two of whom attend Cascade High School – and one grandchild. He and his wife of 20 years recently divorced.
“It took me about two years to really heal and find myself,” Collins said. “I took a couple steps back, took a lot less responsibility. I still stayed in the game and helped. It was time for me to pay my dues.”
Stayton began working out twice a week in June and played its first matches last week. The Eagles fell to North Marion 2-0 but bounced back to defeat Cascade 3-0, getting goals from seniors Kirsten Burt and Ashlyn Burt and junior Tori Nyquist.
“It was nice to get a couple games in,” Collins said. “I think we're pretty much done now. I just don't want to play people more than once.”
Collins is introducing the Eagles to a new strategy. Rather than play up the middle, he is emphasizing stretching the field.
“That's what I've learned,” he said. “That is how you make things happen. That's what makes the game exciting. Getting them to use the whole field has been one of the hardest things in the two games we've had so far, to get them used to that. I just try to teach them the rhythm of the game. Don't just keep forcing so much stuff.”
Collins said he remains “super vocal” on the field, but after his turn as an official, he will be saving most of his critiques for his players.
“It definitely changed my approach,” Collins said. “That was the last piece of the puzzle that I needed to really appreciate the full game.”