There are several similarities between Cincinnati St. Xavier football
coach Steve Specht and Cleveland St. Ignatius legend Chuck Kyle. Both coach at their alma maters, both have multiple D-I Ohio state titles and both are English teachers. Both are also big parts of the Team USA coaching staff, and Specht couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with a mentor as opposed to against him.
There are several similarities between Cincinnati St. Xavier football coach Steve Specht and Cleveland St. Ignatius legend Chuck Kyle.
First, Specht returned to his alma mater, from which he graduated in 1986, to coach in 1993, just as Kyle had done, leaving St. Ignatius only to return right out of college.
Specht has multiple state championships in Division I (2005 and 2007) like Kyle does (although Kyle has considerably more with his 10).
Specht teaches English at St. X, just as Kyle does at St. Ignatius.
Finally, the two both needed very little time when asked to coach Team United States in the Junior World Championships. Kyle was named head coach last year and went to Specht to see if he could gain some Ohio help.
“When coach Kyle first called and explained about this, my first words were, ‘Good God, I’d love to coach with you and not against you for a chance,’” said Specht from Team USA camp the day after his squad beat France 78-0 in the tournament opener. “You feel like you can’t say no to coaching with a legend who I respect so much.
“I’d carry the water for coach Kyle just to be a part of this.”
Specht did accept Kyle’s invitation and is the team’s defensive coordinator, working with some of the most talented players and coaches from around the nation.
“It’s almost like a 2-week coaching clinic with some of the best coaches in the country and the thing is, I get to pick their brains for the whole time, everyday we’re together,” said Specht, who is 55-9 (15-0 in both of his state title years) at St. Xavier since taking over the program in 2003.
And the talent that produced a shutout in that first win?
“I can tell you this much, we have four defensive coaches who are all pretty good right now,” said Specht with a laugh. “There were so many mistakes we had defensively the other night but our kids are so fast you wouldn’t know it. But the thing that is so rewarding as a coach is how fast these kids have learned our schemes and picked up our calls. They all have such high IQ’s when it comes to football.”
One of those talented players who Specht has worked with is St. Ignatius graduate Pat Hinkel, a safety for Team USA.
“I love him, he brings a ton of energy,” said Hinkel of Specht. “He’s a great coach who explains everything very well. We run a similar defense (the 3-3) at Ignatius as he runs at St. X so it was pretty easy to learn after we reviewed his terminology. He’s just a great guy who knows how to coach.”
And those coaches from all over the nation who are working with Specht?
“My first thought when I was asked to be coordinator was with all the coaches in the game, will I be over my head,” he said? “There was so much talent on our coaching squad that I didn’t want to step on anybody’s toes but the humility that we all bring to the game has been tremendous. It’s almost to a fault with us that we want to cater to each other. I came in with a scheme and the plan to ask questions. I wanted the rest of the guys to take these schemes and make them their own and sprinkle their experience on top. Heck, I’m going to take some of the things I’ve learned back to St. X with me.”
But how much is he himself sharing with Kyle, a man he has faced through the years?
“I tell coach that there’s some good stuff that I’m showing and we can use but the secret stuff, that’s staying in my back pocket for the regular season,” he said with a laugh.
Team USA faces Mexico at 7 p.m. in the tournament semifinals tomorrow night at Canton’s Fawcett Stadium.