Middleton's Ken Burghy became the second prep boys soccer coach in Wisconsin history to reach 500 wins last Saturday when the Cardinals beat visiting Hartland Arrowhead 3-0.
But while he appreciated the milestone, he was quick to divert most of the credit to the hundreds of players who have donned the cardinal and white over the past 29 years.
"It's a tribute to the program and the kids we've had," Burghy said. "I'll take credit for the longevity, but I haven't played a minute."
Burghy is the 40th boys coach in the country to reach 500 wins, according to National Soccer Coaches Association of America records, and one of 18 who are still actively coaching. He had a 502-136-46 record heading into Saturday's home match against Milwaukee Marquette.
But Burghy won't catch Bob Spielmann, the former Marquette coach who holds the state record for coaching victories and ranks 30th all-time in wins with a 532-73-40 mark from 1979 to 2005, as he's announced that he'll retire after this season.
Asked if it was a tough decision to step down, Burghy didn't hesitate.
"Not really," he said. "I retired from teaching last year, so I've been out of teaching for a year, my wife is retired from the YMCA, so we're just doing other things, enjoying a different kind of lifestyle now."
Whenever the Cardinals play their final match this fall, it will mark the end of an impressive era of Middleton soccer.
Burghy has led the Cardinals to two WIAA Division 1 state finals, winning the title in 2004 after falling in 2000, 12 state appearances and 17 conference championships. He also compiled a 224-118-40 record in 21 seasons during two stints as the school's girls coach (1984 to '97 and 2002 to '10), a tenure that included three straight state berths from 2005 to '07 and the 2006 state title.
To think it all started back in 1972 when Burghy helped out with an Under-8 team.
"I just really wanted to coach – and I coached everything. I even coached Eastside bantam hockey. And I can't skate," said Burghy, who also coached football and baseball before locking in on soccer. "I really wanted to do it; I really enjoyed interacting with the kids. Things just fell into place and I've enjoyed every second of it – well, most seconds of it."
The Cardinals went 13-3-0 in their first season back in 1984, playing mainly against the Madison schools in the Metro League, but he doesn't remember his first victory.
Middleton went on to find success in the Badger Conference from 1986 through '93 and also in the Big Eight Conference, which it joined in 1994. The Cardinals have never had a losing record, their all-time record in conference matches is 221-26-13 and they've finished lower than third in a conference only once.
"A lot of great memories," Burghy said. "I'm lucky to have them."
As far as his successor, Burghy is hopeful that someone connected to the program will take over and plans to make a recommendation to the administration.
"I have some guys coaching for me that have been there a long, long time," said Burghy, who added that he might look into volunteer coaching opportunities. "I have a couple young men that actually played at Middleton and there are several candidates that would make excellent coaches."
After a combined 50 seasons as a soccer coach in parts of four decades, Burghy said today's teenagers aren't that much different than those he coached back in 1984.
"You know, I think that high school sports has a way of keeping things the same in many ways," he said. "They still love to participate, they love to compete, they come to practice with all the headaches that a young man or young woman would have.
"I think there are more challenges in other aspects of their lives, but athletics is a way of helping them figure out who they are and getting away from some of the turmoil of life in today's world. In that way, these kids are the same."
He also wanted to praise his fellow coaches, especially ones on the other side of the ledger.
"The guys that really deserve a lot of credit are the guys that don't have 500 wins, but they have 500 losses and they're still doing it," Burghy said. "Those are the guys who are really paying the price, as (legendary coach and administrator) Otto Breitenbachwould have said, really getting things done."
And in a time in which high school sports are generally being scaled back, Middleton soccer continues to grow: This fall there are six Cardinals boys teams for the first time, with 135 boys going out for the sport. Burghy credits the support from the school's administration and booster club for that growth, and points out that the community consistently produces quality soccer players.
"We've been lucky in Middleton because we get such great players," Burghy said.
That includes this year's team.
Junior defender Jack Hagstrom made the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association Large Schools All-State Team last fall, while senior midfielder Derek Ott was a Best of the Rest selection. The Cardinals had outscored opponents 32-0 in winning their first six matches going into Saturday.
"I'll tell you, we could do some special things if we stay together and stay healthy, because we have some great athletes and it looks like we can score some goals and we haven't given up one yet," Burghy said. "I think it's potentially one of our top teams ever."