2021 fall All-Area boys' soccer Coach of the Year: Urbana's James Barkley – Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette

One of Editor & Publisher’s ‘10 That Do It Right 2021’
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Updated: December 18, 2021 @ 6:11 am
Urbana boys’ soccer coach James Barkley, immediately left of plaque at center, poses for a photo with his athletes following the Tigers’ Class 2A sectional championship win over Normal West on Oct. 30 at Bloomington.

College/Prep Sports Reporter
Urbana boys’ soccer coach James Barkley, immediately left of plaque at center, poses for a photo with his athletes following the Tigers’ Class 2A sectional championship win over Normal West on Oct. 30 at Bloomington.
Barkley’s Tigers have been a group filled with promise since he took over the program prior to the 2018 season. And this was the campaign in which Urbana put all of the pieces together, though the end result wasn’t quite what the Tigers desired. Even so, they racked up a 19-1-2 record and never lost a match in regulation. Urbana’s two ties came to Big 12 Conference rivals Champaign Central and Peoria Notre Dame as the Tigers finished atop the highly competitive league before rolling through their own Class 2A regional and outlasting conference foe Normal West in a 2A sectional final. Urbana’s postseason road ended with a penalty-kicks loss to Triad in the super-sectional round, but the Tigers still posted their best season showing since placing second in Class 2A in 2012. We let Barkley, in his own words, explain what made this season special:
“It has been a privilege to coach these student-athletes. This team is full of bright, hard-working guys who understand what it is to be part of a team. This is a team built on lifelong friendships among kids and their families that make up the Urbana soccer community.
“Over the past four years and specifically during the pandemic, this team has realized the importance of sport and friendship in our community. During the eight months of quarantine training, bonds were solidified in a way that is unique to even the best teams. Summer and fall of 2020 consisted of multiple small-group trainings per day to stay below the maximum allowable group size during quarantine restrictions. At a time when sport-specific equipment (i.e., soccer balls) was not allowed, the players trained to increase strength and speed. The trainings during this time were way more important than just playing soccer, and we all knew it.
“When the fall 2021 season came around, I knew it was time to pack a chair in my bag and take a seat for one of the best, if not the best high school soccer team in the state of Illinois. Sharing this time with these young people will always be one of the great joys of my life. They are excellent people who will do amazing things, and I can say I knew them when.”
Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.
Urbana vs. Champaign Central in the Class 2A Regional boys soccer championship at Urbana High School on Friday, Oct. 22, 2021.
College/Prep Sports Reporter
Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).
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