Cowichan 49ers coach Kevin James reads over the names of the previous winners of the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s prestigious Wilf Sadler Memorial Award. (Neall Rowlings photo)

Cowichan 49ers coach Kevin James reads over the names of the previous winners of the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s prestigious Wilf Sadler Memorial Award. (Neall Rowlings photo)

Cowichan soccer coach receives VISL’s prestigious Wilf Sadler Award

Kevin James honoured for many contributions to Island soccer

During his playing days as a goalkeeper, one of Kevin James’s superstitions was that he had to have a lucky nickel, minted the year he was born, taped to the inside of his shinpad.

Once, when the nickel went missing after his shinpads were washed — another big no-no — he had the concession workers at Royal Athletic Park go through all their nickels until they found one from the right year before he could play the game.

James had a long, successful career as a goalie in Vancouver Island soccer, then went on to another long, successful career as a coach. But as much as he adhered to those superstitions, he’s not sure how much of a difference they actually made.

“I’ve been fortunate to be part of some special teams and special clubs,” he admitted. “So I don’t know if they’ve actually worked or not.”

On June 1, James was recognized for all his contributions to soccer on the Island when he received the Wilf Sadler Memorial Trophy for exemplary sportsmanship and leadership.

“It’s an honour to win it,” James said. “There are some pretty special names that go along with that award. It’s humbling, for sure.”

Those names include a few from Cowichan, including Dan Lomas, Glen Martin, Neall Rowlings and Tyler Hughes, many of whom he has played with, coached or coached with.

James’s achievements include six Jackson Cups, awarded to the Island men’s champions, and six Tony Grover Cups, awarded to the Island O35 men’s champions. He has coached the Cowichan 49ers, his current team, to four Tony Grover Cups over the last five competitions.

In 2011, James backstopped Cowichan LMG to the first Jackson Cup title for a Cowichan team since 1933. After that, he helped Martin coach the team for two more years. He was playing masters soccer for Gorge when he tore his patella tendon, at which point he came on board to coach the 49ers, who he guided to four cups, two league titles and three provincial semifinal appearances in five short seasons. Outside of coaching and playing, James and his wife, Darcie, organized MS Kick for the Cure, which raised well over $1 million for research and awareness of multiple sclerosis, which Darcie lives with.

After undergoing spinal surgery during the 2021-22 season, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to return to the team, but managed to come back and coached the team to its fourth Tony Grover Cup and a berth in the provincial tournament that ended with a narrow loss in the quarter-finals against the Port Moody team that won it all.

“Things were up in the air, but I was super happy to be back coaching,” James said.

Recognized alongside James were 49ers defender Tyler Hughes, who was named Tony Grover Cup final MVP, and goalie Darian Achurch, who was named league MVP.

“He was well-deserving of it,” James said of Achurch. “That guy could be playing in the First Division still and be one of the best goalies in the First Division, if not the best goalie. I’m proud of him.”

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