600 wins makes Grafton soccer coach a local legend, but that’s only part of what makes him special

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GRAFTON (WITI) -- A high school coach can have an incredible impact on a player's life -- especially if he or she does it "the right way." A Grafton High School coach's record makes him a local legend, but that's only part of what makes him special.

"He easily would be the face of soccer here in this community, but I would say maybe as far as in southeastern Wisconsin," Grafton High School Athletic Director Scott Parsons said.

"He can connect to any player. He really knows how to take control of the game and get connected with the players on the field," Grafton High School Senior and Captain Ben Lorge said.

That high praise is directed towards Grafton High School Coach Don Arnold. Arnold has been coaching boy's and girl's soccer there for over two decades. The husband and father of three girls -- two who played for him, also has a full-time job. But somehow, he even finds the time to coach youth soccer.

"I think just the passion for the game. You know, you put 18 kids out there and different personalities and get them to mesh and become a team, and they want to do things for each other," Arnold said.

Arnold played the game at a high level, including for the Milwaukee Bavarians, but he says it's the young people who bring him joy and a desire to teach them lessons they can take with them long after their playing days are done.

"Just seeing the things that they do, the excitement when they score goals, you know -- just seeing them rally around each other when there's disappointment. It's fun to be around them. They keep you young. I talk to all my teams -- whether it's youth or high school -- that heart, passion and desire are three things that can take you anywhere in life. Not just on a soccer field or in a classroom, but in life in general. If you have that, you're gonna have success," Arnold said.

And Arnold has had success. The Grafton Blackhawks soccer scoreboard boasts regional championships, conference championships, girl's & boy's sectional championships, state runner-up, a state championship for the girls in 1997. But perhaps the most astounding number is the 600 victories Coach Arnold has seen.

"You know, I'm not much of a stat person, but I reflect on all the great kids, great families, and our school too -- our athletic directors. The big thing is reflecting back on the amazing things that these kids do and being part of their lives and they're part of my life," Arnold said.

Arnold is a coach who understands that wins and losses are only part of the landscape. He's always given his heart and soul to his student-athletes, which is why many of them come back to be a part of Grafton's program. Two of Arnold's former players are currently serving as assistant coaches.

Arnold is only 48, but soccer is year-round for him. So how much longer can he keep up the pace?

"Two weeks after the season, after you get that rest, you get that fire going again and you can't wait for the next year. I don't know. They may have to drag me out of here and tell me I gotta go!" Arnold said.

Arnold says without the support of his wife, Tina and his three children, he wouldn't be coaching soccer.