Soccer is part of Tom Roos’ life year round.

Roos coaches the Alexandria varsity girls team, but he also devotes a lot of time to an annual week-long summer camp and is passionate about his work through the Haitian Initiative, a program through the Sanneh Foundation that uses soccer to help provide children in impoverished areas of Haiti a chance at an education and healthy meals.

Roos spends a lot of time trying to grow the game in the Alexandria area, and he was recently honored for that with both the Section 8A and Class A state coach of the year awards.

“It felt good to be recognized by your peers,” Roos said. “To be named the section coach of the year, it’s the other coaches in the section who nominate and vote on that. On a bigger level, to have the high school league association recognize the efforts, it feels good.”

Roos guided the Cardinals to a 10-6-1 record this fall. It’s the third straight year the program has grown its win totals since going 3-13-1 in 2017.

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Alexandria pushed Section 8A champion Bemidji to a penalty-kick shootout on Oct. 14 before falling on the last shot from the Lumberjacks.

“It kind of gives you two feelings,” Roos said. “It kind of is a little bit of salt in the wound because you think we were so close. At the same time, it makes you feel good that the team that’s representing our section is a team we took to a shootout and we’re maybe a few inches away from being in the state tournament.”

Team success tends to matter when winning these coach-of-the-year awards, but it’s not everything all the time. Roos is proud of what Alexandria was able to do on the field, but he also takes a lot of pride in trying to instil other values in his players off the field.

“This year, we had a very competitive team in the section,” Roos said. “That was due to some really good, not just soccer players, but quality girls on the team, girls with really strong character who were able to develop a strong sense of team.”

Alexandria players are often involved with the fundraisers that Roos helps organize for the Haitian Initiative. This past offseason, Alexandria boys and girls soccer players trained with players from the Willmar programs during a one-day camp that was run by former professional players, Pablo Campos and Geison Moura. It was an opportunity to break down some barriers and bring kids together who came from different backgrounds.

“I feel good that I’ve been able to connect with kids of all ages in our community, from preschool to high school,” Roos said. “I feel good I’ve been able to introduce them to a sport, and at the high school level, help them develop into a competitive team. When I see some of the kids develop into individuals who have such strong character, I feel really good about that.”

Roos pointed to a group of senior soccer players who donated their time to volunteering for Habitat for Humanity about a week before the season started. Those are things that stand out for Roos as much as the wins and losses on the field.

“They did that all on their own, and I hope the examples of what we have done through the soccer program have helped shape who they were as a person,” he said. “That they would go out and do something like that and donate part of their summer for Habitat for Humanity, I think that speaks volumes to the type of character they have.”