When Silver Lake College soccer coach Guido Lenaerts was growing up in the European country of Belgium, he and his friends didn’t need much to start up a game of soccer.
“We played in the town square. A jacket thrown on the ground served as a goal. There were no boundaries,” Lenaerts said.
“Any time a Belgian kid stands around with a few friends, naturally they start kicking something around. It could be an empty bottle, or bottle cap or walnut. Europeans go nuts about soccer. That’s their big pastime. Every little town or village has their own team, which is sponsored by the local bar or bank.”
Fortunately for Silver Lake College, Lenaerts brought his love of the sport with him when he and his wife, Vicki, settled in Manitowoc in 1979.
Guido and Vicki, best known for their tireless work in helping develop soccer in the Lakeshore area, are among six people who will be inducted into the Lakeshore All Sports Hall of Fame during the organization’s annual banquet at 6:30 p.m. today at the Holiday Inn Manitowoc.
“Guido and Vicki are very well-deserving,” said Keith Bonde, chairman of the Lakeshore All Sports Hall of Fame. “Guido is the on-field face of a lot of youth and high school soccer played in the area, while Vicki works behind the scenes keeping track of all the paperwork.
“They started the Goalgetters Soccer Club in 1995 while being instrumental in starting the Lake-to-Lake Youth soccer organization that encompasses many area communities and also running youth programs and summer camps.”
Vicki grew up in Manitowoc, learned to play organ from the Sisters at Holy Family Conservatory of Music and attended Silver Lake College. Other ties to Silver Lake College include her sister, a former admissions director; two brothers, both alumni; and her mother, who took classes on campus.
Vicki met Guido in Switzerland and the two were married at the Silver Lake College Chapel in 1973. They have six children and seven grandchildren, two of whom play soccer.
When their children were in grade school, Guido volunteered to coach basketball and softball even though he had never played the sports before. Vicki went to the library and borrowed some books on basketball and softball; Guido learned as he coached.
Things changed in 1992, when the Badger State Games offered soccer for the first time. That’s when he decided to get a local soccer team together.
“It was something that I felt comfortable with. It was a sport that I knew,” he said.
The sport was so new here, that Vicki said she had to teach people in the stands how to cheer because they didn’t know what to look for. Finding regulation leather soccer balls was another problem.
“The first soccer balls I got from my friends in Belgium because I couldn’t find any good ones here,” Guido said.
Once the soccer program here started to grow, it became affiliated with the Sheboygan Recreation Department. That’s when Vicki stepped in to handle all the paperwork.
“I made phone calls, registered kids, got teams together, collected money and wrote newspaper publicity releases,” Vicki said.
Becoming involved in soccer allowed them to spend time with their children and enjoy the outdoors, she said.
The kids had fun playing and the parents became good friends, said Guido, who introduced soccer through area schools, indoor morning sessions, recreation leagues, more select leagues, tournaments, street bottle cap tournaments, beach soccer and summer camps.
“He made it creative and fun. People of every age could play,” Vicki said.
Guido enjoys being a college coach because he started with 8-year-olds and has worked his way up.
“He introduced soccer to the local high schools. He was first soccer coach at Roncalli and Lincoln. That’s when it really started to grow,” Vicki said.
It is satisfying to see that many of the local soccer coaches came out of the 'Guido School of Soccer,' ” Guido said.
He began coaching soccer at Silver Lake College in the fall of 2014. “That’s a recognition of your ability, when you can coach college level,” Vicki said.
Guido taught his players the fundamentals of teamwork.
“They all knew the game but it took them a while to play as a team. Their skills were good, but they stayed individuals on the field. It took us quite a few weeks to play as a team. We had a good season though,” he said.
Like music, soccer is an international language, a common denominator between many nations of the world, Vicki said.