When I was working on the story on the passing of iconic Ballistic United Soccer Coach Ian Lang, who passed December 8 at the age of 79, I had several former players reach out to me with stories of Lang.
As I read through each, I thought it would be a shame to cut any of their recollections. Instead, I opted to run them all together in addition to my personal recollections of Lang.
Please enjoy the following:
Ian Lang was a great coach and player.
Unlike a lot of great coaches in BUSC he grew up playing Futbol and brought that experience and passion to his coaching style. Ian had a straight-forward and direct style.
He didn’t sugarcoat anything and would let you know more often than not if you weren’t playing well – hahaha.
Coach Ian cared deeply for his players and loved the game. Some legendary stories are out there from former players in 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. He will be greatly missed. He always ended practice with “that’ll do!!” RIP coach Ian!!
I have very fond memories of my year with Ian Lang.
My age group was 1971 birth year. After dominating for Mr. Miller, we faded for a couple of years for various reasons, but I chalk that up to not growing physically. When we got to Ian, we had all grown.
Up to this point most of BUSC was very much technical and tactical soccer; coaches ran the show, and we played the way we were taught. Ian was really the first coach who rolled out the ball and said, “Boys, play,” and that’s what we did.
We won early and often. We won state cup at Robertson Park in Livermore. We beat Mt. Hamilton/Evergreen (San Jose), a team that beat up on us for a couple years, in the final 1-0. Jay Sherman scored the winner.
I believe that the freedom to play, and Ian’s confidence in this group created a self-belief that we were always going to be champions.
During this year I flourished.
He pushed me to be the best I could be. He challenged me daily. He would mark me during practice and kick the shit out of me. We played against Larry Boldrini’s U19s often. Once we were able to score once, then again, and then beat them we knew could play with anybody around.
When I left this team I knew doors would open – I knew I could dominate games and opponents. This confidence came from Coach Lang.
I loved seeing Ian walking around Val Vista Park and saying hell and chatting about life. I loved seeing him at games standing away from everybody, and taking it all in.
Ian Lang was integral for me, and so many others. My memories of Ian Lang are fresh and vibrant. This is how I remember Coach.
Coach Lang was very influential in our formative years. Pleasanton, at the time, we had a crew of characters playing soccer that could have easily strayed down the wrong path.
Coach Lang had a way of keeping us engaged and enjoying our time on the field. He allowed us to express ourselves through the game. Not by coincidence, now as a coach, I am shaped in the same mold.
I even end my practice sessions with a “that’ll doo!” with a slight Scottish accent in homage to Coach Lang. He was an original.
Coach Lang was one of the best! A huge personality. Taught us all to work hard and fight to win. He treated us like adults and expected nothing but our best at all times.
Coach Lang also very much knew how to keep it fun while passing on his expertise of the game to us young men.
I will forever remember him and my time playing for him & BUSC
RIP Coach Ian Lang
It was a privilege playing for Mr Lang. I really enjoyed my two years on the A team in under 16s. My first year on the team I thought that he yelled at us a lot and now I can see why. We had a lot of talent, but we played average most of the season.
The game that he yelled at us the most was a league game against the Modesto Ajax at the Sports Park. We were up 4-1 at half. We ended up losing 6-5. We won league but we cut it close.
After the high school season, we started to click, and we played extremely well.
We won a tournament up in Sacramento, lost in the Semi Final in PKs up in Portland to the host team and we went three of four rounds in State Cup.
I will never forget this – late in my first year playing for Mr. Lang, Guy Bazan and I were lucky to be invited to the tryouts for the State Select Team (ODP).
Early in the week of tryouts in the first scrimmage game, I was trying to impress the State Team Coaches, so I had to take guys on and dribble through the other team.
I had no clue that Mr. Lang was even there. I am about to receive the ball again and I am thinking about beating another player. As soon as I got the ball, I heard Mr. Lang yell, “Pass the Ball.”
The next minute I do a nice give and go with one of my teammates, and we almost score a goal.
At halftime after the coach leading our team in the scrimmage talks with us, then Mr. Lang pulls me off to the side. He said, “Bazan on one of the other scrimmage fields is playing simple. There are 60 or 70 kids out here and they are picking 32 players for a 1st and 2nd State Teams. If you keep trying to dribble everybody, you won’t make a team. Play simple like Bazan. It is the first day and I bet Bazan makes a team for sure.”
He ended by grabbing my arm and shaking me. He gave me one of his looks and he said, “PASS THE GOD DAMN BALL!”
At the end of tryout camp, Bazan was named to the 1st team and I was named to the 2nd team. Now this is just tryouts and it has nothing to do with Ballistic and Mr. Lang didn’t have to be there. He took time out of his day to support Bazan and me.
Our 2nd year I don’t remember him really yelling at us as much. He had no reason to yell. We went to the Finals in every tournament that we played, except for Mission Viejo where we took 3rd and the Semi Final lose in DC to end the year.
After we lost to San Ramon on the last day of the league season, I thought that he was going to let us have it. He came up to me as soon as the game was over and he said, “We just didn’t have enough today.”
How could he be mad at us? San Ramon won the league with a record of 9-1, we came in 2nd at 8-2 and Fremont was third at 7-3. It was a great race.
I mentioned this to Chris in the past. I found a bunch of old tournament programs at my Mom’s old house. Most of the programs were from our 2nd year in 16s. I figured that our overall record that season was 32-9-9. I couldn’t figure out the team record from my 1st year with Mr Lang.
I will never forget the smile on Mr Lang’s face when he was calling us up to get our trophies after we beat Hoover to win the BUSC Tournament that 2nd season.
One of the biggest highlights of my time playing for Ballistic United was when Mr Lang named me one the team Captains for our 2nd year along with Curtis Jimerson.
I thought that Mr Lang was a tough coach during practices and games. I thought it was so cool during practices that Mr. Lang and Mr. Negd would scrimmage with us. Mr Negd never got mad and was so mellow. It was hilarious when Mr. Lang would get mad at one of us and put in a rough tackle if someone took the ball off him.
No matter how much Mr. Lang might have yelled at one of us during a game. As soon as the game was over, he instantly turned from our coach to our buddy.
Ian loved the game of soccer and it showed. He put his heart and soul in to coaching and I feel very fortunate to have played on his team for two years. In 1981, Ian lead our Ballistic United U-16 team to win the California State Cup vs. the Bay Oaks. It was the first Ballistic United State Cup win for the U-16 age group and Ian was so proud. He helped me to develop as a player to be able to play in both high school and college and I will always have fun memories of our teams and travels to tournaments in the Bay Area, Dallas and Toronto.