John Burke ’84 played four years of soccer at Saint Viator, including three on varsity where he named to the 1st team ESCC all-conference and a captain his senior year. But it is his coaching legacy that has earned him even more awards.
Over the years, he has been widely recognized at the state and local levels for his coaching of girls soccer at Catholic Memorial High School in Waukesha, Wisc. Now in his 25th season, he drew another award, this time at the national level.
Burke was recognized in January by MaxPreps as the girls’ soccer “Coach of the Decade.” At the start of 2020, MaxPreps looked back at the most impressive statistics across the country for individual athletes, teams and coaches. Burke one of 25 coaches selected for the honor, or one for each sport in girls and boys athletics.
His statistics demonstrate why. From 2010 through 2019, Burke’s teams earned eight state championships—and 14 overall, which is a state best—10 All American team awards with the National Soccer Coaches’ Association, and an average GPA of over 4.0 for varsity players during the decade.
Of those eight state championships, Burke won six in a row from 2012 to 2017. What’s more, his. 873 winning percentage (540-59-45) is the best in state history, according to the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association record book.
“I coach because I believe that if we build teams with spirited and ethical competition as our goal, then we will have a valuable opportunity to teach our players,” says Burke, who started at CMH in 1993 as an English teacher, after earning his bachelor’s degree at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN—where he played soccer—and earned master’s degrees at Marquette and Cardinal Stritch universities. He now chairs the English department.
“I’m proud of our CMH girls because they are as passionate and devoted to their academic work,” he adds, “and service to TOPSoccer as they are to winning championships.”
Burke started TOPSoccer in Waukesha. It draws teens and adolescents to become involved in teaching the game of soccer to young people with disabilities.
In reflecting on the people and coaches who mentored him during his own teenage years, Burke can think of a few, including Fr. Daniel Hall, CSV, who formerly taught and coached at Saint Viator and now serves as Provincial.
Fr. Hall was still a religious brother back in the early 1980s when he coached Burke in wrestling. Both remember those years well.
“Br. Hall had the largest influence on me and helped me to grow to become more focused on the team than myself,” Burke says. “I always remember being in awe of his composure, strength, and wisdom."
“I remember his kind, firm words after I lost a heartbreaking match for the 132-pound conference title,” he adds, “and I have always tried to match his wisdom when I coach players through difficult times.”
Recently, Burke drew another award nomination, this time for the Catholic Financial Life’s Give Back Contest. Its officials commended Burke for his lifelong commitment to Catholic education, and his “faith-filled dedication to teaching, coaching and serving children with special needs.”