Loyola men’s soccer head coach Steve Bode was drafted by Chicago Fire FC in 2008, but an injury gave his professional career a turn. Sports editor Fernando Molina Bier writes about Bode’s path into coaching in the first edition of this new collection, “Creating Coaches.”
‘Doors Close and Doors Open’: Steve Bode’s Journey to Coaching
Loyola Athletics announced the hiring of Steve Bode as head coach for the men’s soccer team Jan. 20, 2022. Formerly an assistant coach for the Ramblers in 2019, Bode made his return to Rogers Park in a period of great change — a conference move from the Missouri Valley Conference to the Atlantic 10 (A-10).
This transition was met with the challenges of more competitive opponents, a more demanding travel schedule, and a lower probability of making the NCAA tournament. In his first year at the helm, however, Bode led the Ramblers to the A-10 Championship game, where they fell to No. 20 Saint Louis University in a penalty shootout Nov. 13.
A natural born leader, Bode said his path to coaching came gradually throughout every stage of his life. Growing up the son of Mike Bode — a professional golfer — Bode said he always felt a significant sports presence growing up. He said he was the “youth of America that wanted to play every sport.”
Ultimately gravitating towards soccer and basketball in high school, Bode said he was fortunate to have excellent coaches, all of which he learned from as they invested their trust in him to lead. As a sophomore in high school, Bode said he was already captain of the soccer team, actively looking to set an example for his teammates.
Bode continued to play soccer in college for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he was named captain as a sophomore again — just a year after joining his new team. Bode said throughout his career as an athlete, he was always put in a position to lead, which was the best way for him to develop the ability over time.
“I felt like in a lot of ways I saw myself almost as a coach on the field in college,” Bode said. “The way I tried to look at the game and how I tried to lead others.”
During his time with the Panthers, Bode was selected as the team’s Most Valuable Player in the 2005 and 2007 seasons and was named the Milwaukee Panthers’ Male Athlete of the Year in 2007. He also received the Herman Kluge award for the 2007-08 season — commemorating excellence in academics, athletics, and community service — while garnering several All-Horizon League Honors.
Upon graduating, Bode achieved his lifelong goal when he was drafted by Chicago Fire FC in 2008, but an injury going into training camp would cut this period of elation short.
“It was like, ‘This is the dream come true,’” Bode said on being drafted by Chicago Fire. “‘This is what I’ve been working for. Went into training camp Chicago Fire and got injured. It was devastating for me at that time, because it was like, tryouts situation, and the injury couldn’t have come at a worse time.”
After recovering from his injury, Chicago Fire FC kept Bode, but he said it was essentially to play in reserve games.
However, Bode was then presented an opportunity by one of his former coaches to become an assistant coach at Marquette University — a Division 1 program — with the option of simultaneously attending graduate school.
“I ended up taking it and running with it, based on the hand that I was dealt at the time and never looked back.” Bode said. “I believe that, you know? Doors close and doors open…I wasn’t going to be a special MLS player. I was probably always going to be hopefully a better coach than I was going to be a player, whether it be in MLS or USL.”
In his first year as head coach, Bode exceeded expectations by leading the Ramblers to a runner-up finish in the A-10 Championship after being ranked fifth in the conference’s preseason poll Aug. 17.
Bode said he was fortunate to take the reins of the team with such a talented roster, full of experienced, driven and hungry athletes. He said being able to guide and mold student athletes in such a developmental period for them is one of the reasons why he loves his job.
“They know that we care beyond just what they can do on the field,” Bode said. “Because that’s kind of probably the stigma as the coach, you do what I say… but beyond that is that relationship, and we love to cultivate those.”
Bode takes pride in his communication with his student athletes, also mentioning how it helped them get on the same page approaching this challenging conference-transition season. Bode said they took this challenge as an opportunity to show themselves how good they could be.
That chip-on-your-shoulder mentality took them to the A-10 final, and just a couple penalty kicks shy from winning it and going to the NCAA tournament. The Loyola men’s soccer team returns in the fall of 2023, and Bode said he’s even more excited for this one.
“The fact that we didn’t win it, these guys are hungry,” Bode said. “They’re motivated. They really want to get back to that same feeling of winning it and going to the NCAA Tournament, so we’re excited about that new challenge this year.”
Featured image courtesy of Steve Woltmann of Loyola Athletics