Scott Luthart began coaching soccer because of his love for the sport. He stayed because of the relationships.
The chance to track a player's progression from their freshman season through their high school career and into college proved to be the most rewarding aspect of a coaching career that began 27 years ago.
So Luthart kept coaching — and winning.
However, Lambert's 8-0 win against South Forsyth last week stands apart.
As the clock counted down and the match neared its end, Emerson Zimmerman and Maddie Franz ambushed their coach from behind, dousing Luthart with the remnants of the water cooler.
The win marked Luthart's 300th career victory.
“I will tell you I was very thankful, because our trainer actually went up to the training room to put warm water in there," Luthart said. "It’s pretty miserable standing out there hugging everybody and getting pictures taken when I was wet, but it could have been a lot worse. I could have been ice water.”
A testament to Luthart's impact, about a half-dozen former players watched from the stands as Lambert's players mobbed their soaking wet coach.
“I had more fun watching the girls celebrate it than I actually had," Luthart said. "I felt like they wanted to rally for me in that case and wanted to get it done before spring break and wanted to get it done at home, so it meant a lot to me.”
Lambert already locked up the Region 6-7A championship, while the win against South improved the Longhorns' record to 13-0-2.
In Luthart's 12 years at Lambert, the Longhorns are 178-44-7 with three state championships appearances, winning the Class 7A title in 2017. Luthart also coached at Meadowcreek from 1994-2000 and at Grayson from 2001-08 before starting Lambert's program.
Under Luthart, the Longhorns have missed the playoffs only once, in 2018.
“I think that 8-9-1 season was the most difficult, simply because we had just gone to a state championship game, and just won the state championship game in 2017," Luthart said. "Then in 2018, we lost 15 of those 22 kids to either graduation or [Development Academy], and then a handful of kids realized who wasn’t coming out, so they decided not to come out as well.”
The Longhorns rebounded quickly and have romped to a 44-2-2 record since then. In fact, last year's team was among Luthart's deepest squads.
Lambert was 9-1 and had just knocked West Forsyth out of first place with a 2-0 victory when the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think we were really onto something and we really hit our stride with that group," Luthart said. "I saw us being one of the top teams in the state going forward and one of the most difficult to knock off come playoff time. I told the girls before, I think the way last year ended to me was more difficult than losing in the finals the year before, because we never really got to end on our terms.”
Lambert has that opportunity this season. The Longhorns have four non-region matches left on the schedule before entering the playoffs as the top seed.
Luthart said one challenge he still enjoys is evaluating each team's strength, then crafting a style of play to maximize each player's strengths.
" ... It’s super gratifying to me to have kids reach back out and say, ‘Hey coach, can I get a recommendation for this,’ or, ‘Hey coach, I wanted to let you know I landed this particular job.’ Our motto has always been ‘win forever,’ and that’s the forever piece to me, just to see how these kids are taking Lambert soccer and some of those lessons, and how those are setting them up for success in their futures."Lambert head coach Scott Luthart
“One of my favorite things about high school is you have to play with what you’re given," Luthart said. "You might have a few move-ins here and there to help you, but you do get to see that progression of kids over a four-year period and kind of grow those kids from freshmen on up. To me, that was one of the special things, to just kind of lay out that long-term plan in what we have positionally, in terms of tactics and strategy and systems, and what’s going to fit best with those kids.”
As the celebration of Luthart's 300th victory settled down, he broke some news of his own: the 2021 season is Luthart's final season before retirement.
Luthart, who has been an administrator for the past three years, said he will focuse on that role to build his resume for future opportunities.
“I got to the point I think last year where I really started thinking about trying to be the best I could be in both roles," Luthart said. "That and the schedule, because it’s so unpredictable day in and day out in regards to what might pop up. I’ll watch film at home and I’ll make practice plans at home, and at the same time, I just feel like I pull myself away from administrative things.”
Luthart said he looks forward to having a different impact on high school students and helping with their decision-making, similar to when he taught science.
“A lot of times you’re force-feeding them chemistry and physics that weren’t necessarily by choice, but then you see how they act differently and behave differently when they’re passionate about something," Luthart said. "You can see them shine on the soccer field and see a whole different personality out there, which is really cool.
“In all honesty, as much as I enjoy the winning part — and don’t get me wrong, it’s a huge thing — it’s super gratifying to me to have kids reach back out and say, ‘Hey coach, can I get a recommendation for this,’ or, ‘Hey coach, I wanted to let you know I landed this particular job.’ Our motto has always been ‘win forever,’ and that’s the forever piece to me, just to see how these kids are taking Lambert soccer and some of those lessons, and how those are setting them up for success in their futures,” Luthart said.
At most, Luthart has nine matches remaining in his high school coaching career — four non-region games, the first-round playoff game, the Sweet 16, the Elite Eight, the Final Four and the Class 7A state championship game, should the Longhorns advance past each stage.
“As hard as it is to walk away, obviously I’d like to see an extended playoff run for this year, which would be ideal," Luthart said. "I’m not ready to walk away quite yet. I want to take this thing to the end, if at all possible.”