In 1966, Horst Richardson had no idea he would be entering his 50th season as the Colorado College men's soccer coach this Friday.
"I really didn't," he said while the Tigers readied for their season opener against Occidental College at 7 p.m. "I still had the option to become an Air Force pilot but that didn't work out in part because I met my wife (Helen).
"It has worked out wonderfully. My children all went to CC and the campus community has become part of my family."
Since taking over the then-4-year-old varsity program, Richardson is 552-300-69 with 19 NCAA playoff berths (four since 2000), including the 1992 Final Four squad (18-2-2). His 500th win came against Dallas (4-0) on Sept. 26, 2009.
The retired German professor (1965-2006) earned regional coach-of-the-year honors five times and was honored by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America for longtime achievement in 2001.
The award drew attention to the lifetime of work he and his wife did to grow the sport in Colorado Springs. The progress is considerable when you recall how some viewed it with suspicion as too European or even communist 50 years ago, he said.
Now, he has 40 players try out each fall for a consistent winning program.
"We have come a long way," Richardson said.
Richardson will be inducted into the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame on Oct. 28. He will be honored during homecoming weekend Oct. 10-11 by the school.
Having a longtime leader is a boost for recruiting.
"Academics were the first draw to the school and soccer was a bonus," senior defender Andrew Worthington said. "Having a soccer program with consistent leadership - not having a new coach every three years - made this attractive."
Part of the secret to Richardson's success is he sees coaching as more than Xs and Os.
"He is a pure educator who loves to teach," CC athletic director Ken Ralph said. "To him and his wife, the team is an extension of their family. There is a different level of caring there that means a lot to the players."
His work as an educator shows in the program's occasional overseas trips, Worthington said.
As a freshman, Worthington and his teammates traveled to Germany and central Europe to compete against club teams.
"That is something I will always remember," Worthington said.
"He made sure to show us something of cultural significances wherever we went."
His efforts maintaining ties with alumni led to a strong financial endowment that helps the program, Ralph said.
Doing all that for 50 years amazes coaches many years his junior and Richardson shows no hint of slowing down.
"It's almost mind-blowing," said 16-year CC volleyball coach Rick Swan, whose team is ranked No. 8 nationally entering this season. "The commitment he has given to the program and the sacrifices he has made year after year is astonishing.
"His door is always open for other coaches if you want to bounce ideas off him or just listen to his stories. There are things that are wonderful about coaching and others that are a grind and to grind through those year after year is amazing."