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Mount Royal says goodbye to a coaching legend

Coach Ian Fuge remembers the Cougars first ever women’s soccer season like it was yesterday.

Only days before the first game he found out he had an 18 hour road trip ahead of him if the ladies wanted to start the season in their Cougars blues.

“When I started the program it was all pretty adhoc and scrambly,” says Fuge with a chuckle. “I remember at the last minute finding out we couldn’t get our uniforms in Canada so I had to drive all the way down to Spokane to get them and beat up my truck along the way — we had no expectations, but we ended up starting something that never really let off.

"There has not been a downhill for Mount Royal’s program.”
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Ian Fuge helped build Mount Royal into a soccer powerhouse, recognized from one Canadian coast to the other.

And after 14 years of dedicated service, standing behind the Mount Royal bench, hundreds of hours sitting on buses, thousands of hours planning and too many laughs to count, Fuge will retire this spring, proud of that accomplishment.

Proud that he helped build Mount Royal’s women’s soccer program into one of the best in the nation.

During his tenure, Coach Fuge led the Cougars to eight conference championships, five national championship medals and a run that included winning four out of five provincial championships in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005, in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.

His record during that tenure is an unheard of, 121-7-13, with an ACAC playoff record of 21-8.

Simply put, the man is a living legend.

While he’ll be remembered by many for his lengthy resume, his biggest legacy isn’t any trophy or medal one of his teams won, rather it will be the lives of the young women he influenced over the years.

"Ian was not only a coach to us, he was a friend, and our biggest supporter,” says Cougars defender Jennifer Price. “He always encouraged us to do better and play harder, he was one of a kind.

"He would laugh along with us on the bus on the way to the field, and he would be serious when he needed to be. Ian was respected by the team and he will be missed. Personally I will miss his face smiling back at you when you turned around, or the look he would give us when we would screw the same drill up over and over. He was a great coach and a friend to all of us."

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Fuge can hardly believe 14 years has passed since he led the first Cougars women's soccer team onto the pitch. He wouldn't trade the memories for anything.
Looking back, Fuge says his favourite memory is also his most painful one.

As Fuge stood on the sidelines with his squad, at the 2007 national title game in Halifax, N.S., watching Francois-Xavier-Garneau bury the winning goal in a shootout after a hard-fought match, all he could do was put his head in his hands. And yet he’s never been prouder of a team.

“That was the best soccer team the school’s ever had,” says Fuge.

“Our bench was good enough to start on most teams. I still get together with a few of the girls from time to time for a coffee. They were so focused, so intense — we set the goal to win the national championship that year and we nearly did.”

While his passion and effort may have flown under some radars, Cougars Athletics is undoubtedly better off for his time spent here.

“Ian poured countless hours into the women’s soccer program and we are truly grateful for it,” Manager of Athletics, Karla Karch says.

“Saying thank you to Ian for his time, energy and commitment over the past 14 years does not truly seem enough. He will be greatly missed by his student-athletes and the department, but we wish him nothing but the best.”

Fuge admits he doesn’t know what he’s going to do with himself when September rolls around and he doesn’t have a team to coach. But he doesn’t regret making the decision.

“You know when it’s time. And we didn’t want to lose Tino,” Fuge says of his former assistant and successor as Cougars bench boss, Tino Fuscko.
“Tino is by far a better coach than me and quite frankly I’m 61 now and I’m getting tired. It’s not the coaching so much as it is the administrative demands, the recruiting…those demands weigh a lot more than they used to.
“But I’m happy to say I had more ups than downs when I was at Mount Royal.”

—Steven Noble and Kyle Henry, April 23, 2009