Anders entering his final chapter with Illineks

Anders entering his final chapter with Illineks

URBANA — Phil Anders doesn't hold a firm reason to end his tenure leading both the boys' and girls' soccer programs at Uni High.

He's not taking a coaching position elsewhere.

He isn't moving out of the area, still serving as a biological informatician at the Illinois Natural History Survey.

And he isn't ruling out potential future sideline duties.

As Anders puts it, "There's no good time (to leave), but then I guess there is a time."

Anders will guide the sixth-seeded Illinek girls' team (7-5-2) into a Class 1A Warrensburg-Latham Regional semifinal match at 5 p.m. Wednesday versus third-seeded Pana (13-3).

Whenever Uni High's playoff road ends, so too will Anders' leadership of its soccer squads after 12 seasons with each.

"It's been an incredible opportunity, and it is a little scary thinking that, 'Oh, OK, I may never be in this position again,'" Anders said. "But I guess that's just life. That's the little bit of risk you take to say maybe there's something else out there."

Joe Krehbiel, a Judah Christian alumnus, will shift from Uni High assistant coach to Anders' head coaching spot with the Illinek boys. The Uni High girls' position has not yet been filled.

The Illinek girls have been steady under Anders' tutelage since 2007, hitting the 10-win plateau four times.

But his biggest mark has come with the Uni High boys.

Anders compiled a 202-58-17 record with that crew beginning in 2007, including five regional titles, four sectional crowns and two state appearances — finishing runner-up in 2012 and fourth place in 2015.

The worst the Illinek boys fared with Anders in a single campaign was 10-8-2.

"If you take the average of all our records in the last 12 years, our wins, losses and draws average out to about 17-4-1," Anders said, "which was the best record the year before I started."

The 50-year-old's replacement on the boys' side already has Anders' endorsement.

"Any coach, that's what they would hope for: That people who understand what you attempted to do (are in charge)," Anders said, "and go off and just start with that or work with it."

A two-time News-Gazette All-Area soccer Coach of the Year across both genders, Anders recalls getting into his part-time profession in the late 1990s.

His son, Mason, got involved with local park district soccer. Anders described those at the head of his son's team as "well-meaning," but also knew his experience as a college player at DePaul could help the club.

Daughter Autumn later followed in Mason's footsteps. It eventually led to Anders asking his younger child for permission to leave the park district scene and coach the Illineks.

"I asked her a couple weekends ago, I said, 'Were you mad at me?' She said, 'Yeah,'" Anders remembered with a laugh.

A significant component of Anders' coaching style, he said, revolved around two questions: "How do we fail, and how do we learn?" The former of those made for some difficult conversations with high-achieving Uni High student-athletes.

"That was something they did not want to hear," Anders said. "The idea is to recognize those failures and then, from there, say, 'How could we do this better, or how could we set ourselves up not to fail in those instances?'

"So now you're talking about how do we learn and how do you push forward."

And the Illineks did plenty of that with Anders at the helm.

Perhaps they could do so again sometime in the future.

"Certainly, if the opportunity were there, and I was receptive to it, certainly I would be very interested," Anders said. "I don't think coaching has diminished at all for me. I absolutely love it."

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