A soccer ambassador in Lake CityLAKE CITY -- Rachel Tackmann is the rare high school athlete whose legacy will live beyond the record book. Tackmann, the Tigers' career leader in goals (46) and assists (19), is a soccer ambassador here.
By: Ryan Nilsson, The Republican Eagle
LAKE CITY -- Rachel Tackmann is the rare high school athlete whose legacy will live beyond the record book. Tackmann, the Tigers' career leader in goals (46) and assists (19), is a soccer ambassador here.
She has worked to cultivate a love for the game among the community's youth players and her teammates alike, all while serving as a model of compassion in her adopted hometown.
The senior worked over the summer as a coach with the recreational Lake City Soccer Club, instructing boys and girls between kindergarten and sixth grade.
"I love to help other people and just to teach them," said Tackmann. "I feel if I teach other girls it'll make them become better and (keep them) playing."
Tackmann excels at player development because she makes the game simple and breaks down the basic skills for children, according to club president and the Lake City girls coach Mark Spence.
"When they see her do these kind of things and see how easy it can be with a lot of work then it really helps them out," Spence said.
Tackmann's passion to grow the game has engendered the admiration of the club's young players. She's become a role model, according to Spence.
A few of the children Tackmann coached spotted "Coach Rachel" at a junior high game Sept. 10 and informed her they'd be back that night to cheer her on against Kasson-Mantorville.
It's commonplace for the recreation players to say, "Hi" when Tackmann is grocery shopping at Fiesta Foods.
"She'll stop everything and talk," said Sharon, Tackmann's mother.
Tackmann will put most anything on hold to assist the youth players. Spence once asked her to referee a youth game when she was scheduled to attend her cousin's birthday party.
"I said, 'Mom, I got to go ref. Sorry,'" said Tackmann, who arrived late at the party.
Tackmann, a gypsy, spent the first four years of her life in segregated Romanian orphanages. She wasn't allowed to sit at the same table as children of Romanian descent.
"I didn't have really good memories of the orphanage," Tackmann said. "It was yucky and very poor."
Conditions were so bad at Tackmann's orphanage in Turnu-Severin that Sharon Tackmann said she was not allowed inside when she adopted her daughter.
Sharon Tackmann first traveled to Romania in 1992. A special needs teacher at Lake City's Bluff View Elementary School, Sharon Tackmann attempted to teach staff at the Timisoara orphanage simple techniques to improve the children's fine motor, gross motor and cognitive skills.
"There were probably five staff in that whole building with 250 kids," Sharon Tackmann said. "It just wasn't going to happen."
She returned to Romania a few more times and adopted Tackmann in 1996.
"Gypsies were (considered) the scum of the earth," Sharon Tackmann said. "When I wanted to adopt one they all thought I was crazy. ... I wanted to save every one of them, but there was 100,000 of them, probably, in the orphanage. But I needed one."
After she was adopted, Tackmann would swing from the curtains and together they'd come crashing down. After that happened numerous times, Sharon Tackmann had to use hot glue to hold her curtains up. Tackmann broke windows and a television. She painted walls with fingernail polish.
Tackmann, though, was quite coordinated.
"One of the workers told me they used to blow up balloons and just let them hit and kick and punch balloons," Sharon Tackmann said.
Two weeks after Tackmann arrived in the United States, Sharon Tackmann enrolled her daughter in as many classes as possible at the Red Wing Family YMCA. It was there that she was introduced to soccer.
"Right from little she could do anything with a ball," Sharon Tackmann said. "She could hit, throw, run, shoot that ball. But gymnastics, oh no, that wasn't her thing. And I knew it from Day One. She was so naughty. Oh she was naughty.
"Swimming lessons, they kicked her out. She didn't have any positive role models, any real social skills. She didn't speak the language."
Tackmann is one of the Tigers' four senior captains. In advance of captains' practices this summer, Tackmann obtained a list of all the Lake City soccer players. She called every phone number on the list and encouraged each girl to attend.
And when players attended captains' practices, Tackmann did her best to make them feel welcome.
"She tries really hard to get to know all the younger kids and just get them really excited about soccer," co-captain Danielle Kehren said. "She'll pass to everyone. She's a real team player."
Tackmann has demonstrated that she also is an insightful player.
Opposing defenses target Tackmann, a two-time All-Hiawatha Valley League Conference selection. She is often double-teamed by physical defenders.
Lake City's Aug. 31 game at Dover-Eyota was no different.
When Tackmann received the ball with her back to the goal about 12 minutes into the second half, she knew two defenders were marking her. Instead of trying to beat the defenders, Tackmann passed the ball back to Kehren and she scored an easy goal to help Lake City earn a 2-2 tie.
Even with the added attention, Tackmann has scored 11 goals this season.
"She has a knack for the goal," Spence said. "She knows how to find a way to get the ball in the back of the net. Her ball-control skills are just outstanding. She knows how to maneuver the ball around other people. The best thing about it is she'll find a way to put the ball on goal no matter what."
Tackmann has dedicated the season to Kelly Marin and her husband, Ebert.
Kelly Marin was Tackmann's eighth-grade Spanish teacher. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, but went into remission after chemotherapy and radiation, according to her CaringBridge Web site. In early 2009 it was discovered the breast cancer had metastasized.
"It's pretty much like one of those teachers, she walks in the room and the whole room lights up," Tackmann said.
Ebert Marin is the Lake City junior high soccer coach and Tackmann's close friend. He has served as Tackmann's personal soccer trainer.
"I would like to say that Kelly has been aware enough to know that Rachel said she was going to dedicate her season to Kelly," Ebert Marin said. "... She doesn't comprehend a lot. But I think it's a nice gesture.
"As a coach and as a friend it's very nice to know that she cares and that, that might be a motivation for her to try even harder. Again, she's always a hard worker and now this is just an extra motivation for her.
"But for me, I'll speak for myself, whenever she calls and says, 'I scored two goals, three goals and I dedicated them to Kelly,' to me that's very nice. That's very comforting."
Tackmann's actions and inspiration suggest she could be a role model for Lake City's youth soccer players off the field, too.