Through the Blue KC Sporting Samaritan program, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) and Sporting KC are honoring students and teachers who are making a significant impact in Kansas City and inspiring others to do the same.
Reading quotes from former students about Dr. Rick Pribyl, English teacher and boys’ and girls’ soccer coach at Blue Valley Northwest High School, provides a clear picture of the teacher/coach’s capacity for making a positive impact on high school students.
“He's an excellent teacher. I have never learned more than in his class this year.”
“I'm 23 and a new teacher myself, and he's one reason I became a teacher. Every lesson connected with me.”
“He is incredibly helpful and compassionate; he wants his students to succeed.”
“He is the kind of person I want to grow up to be.”
“Dr. Pribyl teaches more than English; his lessons are about life. At a time when I was months away from graduating and close to entering the world as an ‘adult,’ it was exactly the type of guidance I needed. In fact, I feel that his lessons are just as relevant to me today, 15 years later!”
“He is the most awesome, kind-hearted person I have ever met! If you ask him how he is doing, he turns around and asks how you are doing. He is the most selfless person that I know! He is the man that I strive to be.”
For Pribyl, the feeling seems to be mutual. He refers to his students with the word “incredible” and is authentically humbled by the opportunity to make an impact on young lives.
“I’m thrilled that I’ve had the opportunity to have coached well over 600 varsity players and three times that number of sub varsity players,” said Pribyl. “It pleases me to know that a vast majority of them are now successful professionals in their occupations, have children of their own, and hopefully are the next core of coaches who care not only for the game, but for the happiness the game has brought them.”
For 30 years, Pribyl has been coaching girls and boys soccer, and total, he’s now in his 61st season. In those years, he has achieved incredible success, including three consecutive state titles with the Blue Valley Northwest girls’ team from 2013-2015.
But there are some things more important than wins and titles, and according to Pribyl, that’s what he and his coaching staff try to enforce. According to Pribyl, he and his assistant coaches purposefully apply soccer lessons to real life to help prepare his student-athletes for what they will encounter beyond high school.
Surely it’s working.
“…I learned more about life during soccer practices than I did in any other classroom with any other teacher,” said another former student.
Named the 2013 Girls’ National High School Coach of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, Pribyl also seems to have found the ideal balance between pushing his students and student-athletes to achieve their best, while making the process enjoyable. It’s a lesson he was taught as a college athlete at St. Louis University.
“My coaches taught me to always enjoy and have fun playing the sport, and I strive to make that happen every day,” said Pribyl, who played for the Bilikins from 1966 to 1970 before becoming a pilot in the U.S. Air Force. “At the same time, our bar of standards is always set high on our teams as together we expect the best in the classroom and on the field. The ultimate goal is for the student-athlete to have given her/his total best on the field and in the classroom.”
Thankfully, his students love him for it. Realizing that he cares more about them as people than how they perform on the pitch or in the grade books, they continue to sing his praises year after year. And it is for this reason, that Pribyl was nominated for and selected as a Blue KC Sporting Samaritan.
His nomination was submitted by the father of three of his former student-athletes, Galal Baki, who witnessed the tremendous growth of his sons under the influence of Pribyl. According to Baki, students who spend time with the teacher/coach may start out in his class or on his team as boys and girls, but leave as mature young men and women.
“My sons often say he is one of the smartest, most knowledgeable men they have ever met,” said Baki. “He acted as a positive instructor, coach, role model and mentor. He was transparent and brave when critical conversations needed to be had. His personal commitment to his students is unwavering and genuine. Rick Pribyl was not only one of their favorite teachers, he also played a critical role in many of their best high school memories.”
The man so beloved by his students, and who claims that in 30 years he’s never had a bad player on one of his teams, is uncomfortable with personal recognition but receives it graciously.
“Thank you for this,” he told representatives of Blue KC and Sporting KC when presented with his honoree gift packet.
No, Coach Pribyl. Thank you.