Someone once asked Grain Valley soccer coach Tyler Nichol who he would pick if he could choose anyone to work with. He didn’t have to think long for an answer:
“For years Brett’s been the guy at the top of my list,” Nichol said.
Nichol got his wish last fall, when Lewis joined Nichol as an assistant coach. This week, Grain Valley announced that Lewis will be taking over the boys team while Nichol continues as the girls head coach.
Which fulfilled another wish.
“It wasn’t really my thought long-term to do both programs,” Nichol said. “I’ve been trying to convince him to come over and I was finally able to do that this year.”
Lewis and Nichol go back a long ways, well before the 2007 Blue Springs High graduates played four years together for the Wildcats. They grew up in the same neighborhood, attended the same schools and played on the same teams.
So when Nichol decided to relinquish one of his Grain Valley teams to spend more time with his family, he knew who he wanted to replace him.
“The plan was to allow him to take one of the programs over and kind of work together,” Nichol said. “I didn’t have a preference which one it was and the boys for him was probably a better fit. He was able to actually have that fall season this year and get to know them and build that relationship with those kids.”
Lewis has never been a high school head coach before, but he’s been an assistant at Blue Springs, Oak Park and Oak Grove and longtime club soccer coach. Spending that year under Nichol, he said, has prepared him to be in charge. And since the two are so alike in their approach, he doesn’t think the Eagles will notice much of a difference.
“We’ve been coaching together for a while and Tyler and I have similar philosophies about how we want to run programs,” Lewis said. “It’ll be a pretty smooth transition, and since I got to be around the guys a lot last year, they know generally what I expect and how I plan to maintain this culture of excellence that Tyler has really built at Grain Valley.”
Nichol built that success over seven seasons, five of which he spent coaching the boys and girls. Lewis was with him when the Eagles boys went 15-5-1 and came within an agonizing 1-0 overtime loss to Platte County of making their third Class 3 state final four in five years.
He will have to find a replacement for midfielder Jack Knust, who totaled 30 goals and 11 assists as The Examiner’s Player of the Year. Graduation has left some other holes, too.
“We have really good talented players coming into the program, so I’m just optimistic about the future,” Lewis said. “Next year is going to be a cool new adventure for these guys. We’ll have to get past the fact that we’re losing some great seniors, but I have full faith in these guys providing new leadership and maintaining a certain level of expectations and competition on the field and off it as well.”
Lewis will also assist Nichol with the girls team, which would have vied for an eighth straight district championship if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t shut down its season this spring. Nichol, though, won’t be by his good friend’s side this fall. He wants him to have some room to grow.
“Tyler’s been awesome,” Lewis said. “The whole program is really a testament to all the effort and energy he’s put into both the boys and the girls.
“I’m really excited for the opportunity. I’m pretty excited about it.”