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Bearlights

BEARS IN SOCCER
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Bill

Merrell

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Head Coach:

 1983-86 & 1989-91 

Overall Record at Cal:

 61-20-8 

Notable Cal Coaching Moments:

 1983 Quarterfinal Appearance 

 

 1984 Final Four Appearance 

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A
Tribute

The outpouring of sentiment for this tribute to Bill Merrell has been touching.  It gives us the opportunity to be reminded what a wonderful father, husband, mentor,

coach and friend Bill was.  While we will be forever indebted that Bill put the Cal Women’s Soccer program on the map, his 

accomplishments, contributions and the legacy that he leaves behind runs much deeper.  We will forever remember him as the man who made us

believe in ourselves - that we could do anything.  He was the definition of a leader who empowers, lifts up and

and gets the very best out of his people – family, friends, players, co-coaches.   “The back bone of his personality was to get you to strive to be the best you could be” says daughter Rebecca.  “He wanted us to give it our all, be independent, push ourselves and be self-sufficient.”  It is safe to say that Bill made us all not just better soccer players but better people and better friends.   Bill taught us to believe in ourselves and each other.

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This young boy probably did not know that he would become a life force – touching so many. 

If you look closely, you can see the mischievous, fun loving young Bill who would later become such a huge part of the Cal Women’s Soccer program.

A Little History

Before Bill became entrenched in his soccer career (and ours), he began his undergrad at Stanford (no!) then transferred to Northwestern where the love of his life and future wife, Marian, was going to school. Marian and Bill met at San Marino High School where he dated Marian’s best friend,  subsequently he and Marian took a World Affairs class together. She was incredibly impressed by his knowledge of World War II - he was the only one to raise his hand and volunteer to tell the class about it. Some of us will remember that Bill quoted General Patton in some of his motivational speeches.  Marian misses his passion and interest in everything.  “He would tell you facts about just about anything. One time we were watching Jeopardy and the question was about obscure rivers.  He got every one right – and he was not humble about it either!”   “He read a book every night of the week” according to Vickie – generally historical in nature and non-fiction.  “He was incredibly well informed”.

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Bill and Marian attended a high school prom together and the rest, as they say, is history. As with everything he did, Bill was all in. We think that his poems were something, but Bill wrote Marian love letters every day during their freshman year until he could finally join her (transferring from Stanford to Northwestern). They were all two to three pages in length, sharing what was going on, what he did/didn’t approve of (i.e. hazing), how he missed Marian and making plans for what the future might hold for them. A fond memory is when Bill was visiting Marian at chilly Northwestern with no winter clothes or gloves, a student needed help with her car – Bill changed her tire in his bare hands in freezing temperatures. No surprise Bill was very involved at Northwestern, where he became co- chairman of Homecoming and was active with his fraternity, Phi Kappa Sigma. Bill and Marian were married in Pasadena prior to their senior year at Northwestern, then he was off to Stanford Law School. Sharon and Vickie were born during law school with Rebecca a four years later. Despite an incredibly hectic schedule, the couple still made time for fun with friends with a favorite outing being dressing up in the theme of a particular country.

Bill graduated and specialized in airline, real estate, corporate, utility and sports law.  Bill joined his grandfather’s law firm then co-founded his own firm, Dietsch, Gates, Morris and Merrell.  Since Bill was their firm’s best litigator, he did most of their trial work, burning out during the process. “It was hard on him,” Marian observes “but he was simply good at everything he did”. Bill’s heart lay elsewhere. He took great interest in history - a dream was to be a history or political science teacher (his major) where he could touch the lives of others in a meaningful way. Bill’s daughter Vickie – to this day an incredibly talented athlete – played soccer around the neighborhood and of course had Bill’s full support as she jumped into the early days of AYSO.  Bill then began to fall in love with a sport that he never played and began to marry his passion for his daughter’s growth, a cool new sport and his passion for teaching and touching lives. 

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 Bill's Passion For Soccer 

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As Vickie’s soccer career began at age 8 with the AYSO Orchids, Bill’s coaching career started as an assistant coach then no surprise, he became head coach.  Vickie might even say he periodically “usurped power”.  As Vickie recalls, he was all in learning everything about the sport, researching and  becoming immersed.  “At the beginning, he read everything about soccer” according to Marian.  Shockingly (kidding), one of the things that he also had to learn was to be a good loser!  “It was a tough lesson for him” she recalls, with a laugh.

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Vickie excelled and Bill was ready to take things to the next level.  He then partnered with co-coach Warren Stephenson (a former football player also with his own daughter Erin playing) to develop the first girls’ All Star / club team in the South Bay (CA) which would subsequently become the Palos Verdes (PV) Breakers.  It was a special time for coaches, parents and players – the team stayed together for four years, winning multiple tournaments,  four state titles and finally a West Regional title - which was as far as you could advance at the time.  The team learned how to juggle at a (relatively) early age, how to pass unselfishly, how to run off the ball, pretty decent tactics  and oh boy how to do sprints, sit ups and leg lifts!   As American youth coaches went at the time, the Breakers were incredibly lucky to have two coaches who became students of the sport and took their roles so seriously.  They also had high expectations…

In 1980, the coaches arranged for a trip to Europe where the Breakers played in England, Holland and Germany – having the experience of a lifetime. The PV Breakers beat the women’s FSV Frankfurt team, despite the fact that they had 18 year olds playing against 14 olds.  The FSV Frankfurt Club  committed that they would not allow themselves to lose to the Americans again which gave birth to a much more committed women’s league in Germany.   Bill was basically the organizer of the first FIFA affiliated U.S. Girls team to compete in Europe – a pioneer and huge contributor to the growth of his players and the sport.  Mary Harvey (US Women’s National Team and Cal Hall of Fame) commented that when she played in Germany many years later, that they looked back on that moment as the impetus for their program.  Not only did the Breakers players become life-long friends in many cases, but the parents built a community around this novel experience that was the beginning of girls’ soccer in the US.

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