Tanner French named SHS varsity boys soccer head coach

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(Photo by ERIC PLUMMER) Sandpoint High School alum and new boys soccer coach Tanner French evades a pair of defenders during a home game against Moscow on Sept. 28, 2006. French (‘09) was named the SHS boys soccer head coach on Monday.

After weeks of searching for a new boys varsity soccer head coach, one of Sandpoint High School’s most decorated alumni will be traversing the sidelines of the pitch this fall.

Former girls soccer assistant coach and two-sport standout Tanner French was named the next boys soccer head coach on Monday night. French (‘09) will take over for Evan McNeley, who resigned on June 21.

“It’s a blessing,” French said about earning the position. “And to be honest, it feels fantastic that community members recognized that I was the right man for the job. I couldn’t be more thrilled because it’s a good opportunity that I’ve always dreamed of, coming back to coach my alma mater.”

French was a mainstay during Sandpoint’s Randy Thoreson-led dynasty that blitzed Idaho prep soccer in the early aughts. To say French has state tournament experience would be an understatement: French and the Bulldogs won 4A titles in 2006 and 2008, putting together one of the more dominant prep soccer runs in Idaho state history.

As a senior, French had a year to remember. In the fall, he an integral part of the 2008 state title team, was named the IEL Defensive Player of the Year and scored two goals in the Idaho 4A State Championship game. Then in the winter, French was a starter on Sandpoint’s 2008-09 boys basketball team that snapped a decades-long state tournament win drought.

Experienced from these deep postseason runs, French hopes to impart his knowledge and wisdom about what it will take to get back to the state’s biggest stage onto Sandpoint’s current players ­­— and hopefully win another title in the process.

“The hardest concept for the boys to grasp will be to buy in to the program, to look at the trophy case and understand that all of that experience and reputation was earned,” French said. “The boys will have a tough test more mentally than physically. You can’t just wake up and say, ‘I’m going to go win a championship today.’ You’re working months in advance and you’re understanding the core values that are put in place. They’re going to have to grasp that with all the energy they have.”

After graduating from Sandpoint High School in 2009, French took his talents to Oregon State University, where he made the All-Pac-10 honorable mention team as a freshman. He then transferred to Division II Concordia University to complete his collegiate career.

Yet throughout the ups and downs, the desire to coach lingered in the back of French’s mind.

“I’ve always found that coaching is my gift,” French said. “As a player, I’ve always bought into any coach that was coaching me ­— whether I liked their personality or their philosophy, I’ve always learned something.”

Part of French’s broader vision will be not only hiring several experienced SHS soccer alumni for his assistant coaching roles, but also rekindling relationships between fellow Sandpoint soccer alumni and the current team.

“We are excited for Tanner to get started,” Sandpoint High School athletic director Kris Knowles wrote in an email announcing the hire.

The Bulldogs will kick off the Tanner French era at home against Lewiston on Saturday, Aug. 24 at noon.

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