When you think of the greatest winning cultures in the sports world your mind could easily go to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, or you could think of Geno Auriemma, the women's hoops coach at the University of Connecticut. Maybe you stay a little closer to home and you remember all the great years Pat Summitt spent at the University of Tennessee and you think, "That is a winning culture, a winning attitude, a dynasty."
In the world of high school soccer there is a coach right here in Sumner County who has built a dynasty, Russ Plummer at Hendersonville High School. Already one of the greats, Plummer added another notch to his belt that will solidify him as a hall of famer whenever he chooses to hang up his whistle. Defeating Hardin Valley 1-0 in the Bearden Tournament on March 31, Plummer earned win number 800 in his coaching career.
Winning isn't easy. If it was, you wouldn't turn on the tube to see breaking news that 'x' coach has been let go because he simply didn't produce enough W's. Some take it for granted while others thirst for the thrill of victory as if it were the only bottle of water in the dry desert heat. The power of victory is just that; power. Roaming over his program for the last 30 years, Plummer has built a soccer dynasty that most places and coaches can only dream about.
Plummer took over the Hendersonville soccer program in 1987 coaching both the boys and girls teams. Each program is responsible for about half of the 800 wins. His boys teams have won three state championships (1989, 1998, 2010), and made 10 state tournament appearances. His girls teams have made it to the state tournament six times and finished as state runner-up in 2003.
"Hendersonville is a very special place," said Plummer. "There was a foundation before I got here and we were able to build off that. Anytime you make an achievement like this it's not just one person. There are a lot of players, parents and administrators that deserve credit too. This is a program achievement."
Plummer said he hasn't taken much time to reflect on the 800-win milestone.
"I think these types of things you think about and appreciate more when you're retired. I think they will stand out more then and mean more than they do now. Right now, we are just worried about winning the next game. The cool thing about the 800th win was having players whose dads played on my first team. That was a neat situation."
Plummer has never been one to worry about his own accomplishments. He always puts the team, and program first.
"Personally, I don't have certain benchmarks that I want to reach," he said. "Obviously, you want to be successful, every coach does, but I think sometimes our society only looks at wins and losses and there is a lot more to success than just those things."
Plummer remembers his first win as head coach, but admits his 800th came as a surprise.
"My first win as boys coach was against Father Ryan at an old parks and rec center behind metro center. The first win as girls coach came against St. Cecilia at St. Cecilia," he said. "The only reason I knew I had won number 800 was, they put the all-time records on the camp brochures we had at the Bearden Tournament. I didn't tell anyone, that's not me."
Year after year a high school coach is forced to deal with roster turnover, but that hasn't stopped Plummer from developing a mentality that sustains success.
"Regardless of what we have talent wise or the players we have, there are elements that you want to carry over year after year. We always want to be organized, prepared, and have a discipline in our game," he said. "We want to be very efficient on offense and defense. Those traits can be carried over year after year, regardless of your team or the formation you run."
WHERE HE COMES FROM
Plummer knows the importance of family. His dad is one of his biggest heroes, teaching him the importance of hard work.
"Family is important. If you don't have the support of your family it makes whatever you're doing more difficult," he said. "My dad has had one of the biggest influences on my life. Growing up he worked two jobs and honestly I think that's where I got my work ethic from."
During his time in high school, Plummer focused his attention on his soccer coach, Roger Jacobs, where he learned the importance of attention to detail.
After graduating high school, Plummer took his adaptive learning behaviors to Indiana University where he learned more in Bloomington, Indiana than he would have playing for any other university.
"I knew when I got to college I wanted to be a coach," said Plummer. "I was best friends with the coaches, players, and I really had the best of both worlds as a student manager. I was able to train with the team every day, and I learned more in five years than I would have anywhere else had I played. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything."
Jerry Yeagley, the coach at IU, ranks number one in men's Division I soccer history for most wins.
"What I learned from him was there is no way to cut corners on the road to success," Plummer said. "Every coach that I've been involved with I try and gain knowledge from. Every coach I've played for has a common theme and that is, the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the name of the back."
Plummer said he met another important mentor when he came to HHS.
"Another big influence was the first principal I had at Hendersonville, Mr. Paul Decker," Plummer said. "Mr. Decker reinforced the importance of family and helped make HHS into a first-class organization."
EYES ON THE FUTURE
When asked if he had any plans of slowing down after 30 years of success Plummer quickly said no. "There is no timetable for me," he said. "I enjoy what I do and I really hope the kids enjoy it as much as I still do."
Like Belichick in his prime, or Summitt in her heyday, Plummer knows the importance of keeping your eyes forward and winning the task at hand, worrying about the finest of details and squeezing out the most potential from your teams.
You can see the Commandos in action at Lebanon on April 7 before they head to Memphis to compete in The Rivals Tournament from April 13-15. During their time in the 901, Hendersonville will take on Christian Brothers, Lausanne, and Evangelical Christian School.