Alta soccer coach Lee Mitchell knows how to win.
He won 14 state championships and three national coach-of-the-year awards, but he’s still surprised anyone even knows his name.
When the Utah High School Activities Association nominated Mitchell in 2014 to be the coach of the year for boys soccer for the National Federation of High Schools, Mitchell was stunned.
“It was kind of a shock, I felt a kind of unbelief because it is a big thing for a guy from Utah to be able to do that,” Mitchell said. “That’s pretty amazing.”
Mitchell is known to defer the credit he receives to his team and fellow coaches. When he was chosen as the Gatorade Coach of the Year this summer, receiving the award at the ESPY’s, he didn’t boast or brag. He hardly even acknowledged the award was for him. That’s the kind of coach Mitchell is always pushing his team to be their best, always giving everything from the time he started coaching in 1983.
Not much has changed since then, except Mitchell says he’s slowed down some over the years. “I’ve gotten older,” Mitchell says. “I used to run with (the team), and now I send them off on a 3-5 mile run three times a week. I stopped running with the boys a few years ago. They’re young and they’re strong and they go.”
Mitchell became interested in soccer when he was invited to play with an adult league in his church congregation when he was 12 years old.
“They beat the snot out of me and I liked it,” he said.
Mitchell went on to play the club sport in high school, then began coaching students in cross country and basketball before soccer became a sanctioned sport. Since then, Mitchell says there’s no better way to teach young students the power of discipline and hard work than through playing soccer. Mitchell just looks at what some of his students have become, and he knows their achievements are even more satisfying than all of those coach of the year awards.
“You’ve got state leaders, you’ve got religious leaders, business people, military men and women,” Mitchell said. “It teaches them to be disciplined and to set goals and go out and achieve goals.”