Posted on 17 November 2013.
What would you call a man who lives 1,200 miles away from his wife?
Some would call him “estranged” and possibly “crazy.” In the case of Indiana Wesleyan University women’s soccer coach Dr. John Bratcher, however, one might call him “devoted” and “faithful.”
When God called Vanetta Bratcher to West Palm Beach, FL, last May, John Bratcher knew he had to follow.
Dr. John Bratcher will join his wife in Florida next summer after 12 years at IWU.
Upon taking the position of director for the Student Success Center at Palm Beach Atlantic, Vanetta told her husband, “I’ve followed you to three different universities. Will you follow me?”
He said yes.
That’s why, at the end of his contract year in June 2014, Bratcher is leaving his position at IWU to join his wife in Florida.
When Bratcher told Athletic Director Mark DeMichael about the news in June, DeMichael was “surprised and shocked,” especially since Bratcher had previously told him he’d be here for two more years.
“But I said [to DeMichael] I’m staying all year,” Bratcher said. “I’m not leaving now. I’m not going in August. My call of duty right now is here at the school coaching and teaching.”
And he’s doing just that. Bratcher still lives in Marion, coaching women’s soccer and teaching physical education classes on campus. His wife started her new job Aug. 5 and lives in West Palm Beach, some 17 hours away.
Bratcher started coaching women’s soccer at IWU in fall 2002. With him he brought more than 20 years of experience coaching at the collegiate level.
Before IWU he coached at Lee University and Grand Rapids Baptist College, now Cornerstone University. Before then, he coached men’s track and field at a junior high school in Virginia Beach. He also started the girl’s track and field and soccer teams there.
“It’s tough to leave here,” Bratcher said about IWU. “They’ve already had a farewell reception. Some of the coaches have given me signed jerseys, and I’ve given some to them.”
During his time on campus, Bratcher has led the women’s soccer team to many successes.
According to the IWU Wildcats website, Bratcher led the women’s soccer team to nine Mid-Central College Conference (now Crossroads League) titles in a span of 10 years. The team has also received the NAIA Champions of Character Award as well as many Player of the Year awards by the NCCAA, Bratcher said.
Bratcher himself has won several honors, most recently the NSCAA NAIA Region Coach of the Year Award in 2010.
He does not credit himself, however, as the sole contributor to the team’s achievements.
“Maybe I put them in places that helped them to shine, but they were already pretty decent players all along,” he said.
Graduate assistant Janelle Carmichael, who was one of Bratcher’s first recruits in 2003, credited his coaching style as a powerful aspect to the team’s success.
“He sees the game very differently. He’s very knowledgeable, but he sees it differently,” Carmichael said. “It’s focused on fun. [He] wants people to have a good time while they’re doing it, and that produces a pretty good result.”
Some of the success also came from how he chose to recruit and who he accepted onto the team, Carmichael said. He created a “chemistry” that allows the team to work together and overcome trials.
“I think there’s a lot to be said for maintaining that safe environment. … Maintaining that, I think, is what brought the real success,” Carmichael said.
Aside from the many achievements, Bratcher has used his team as a ministry. Since 2007, he has taken a group of seniors to Jamaica during spring break every year. During their time there, they’ve painted schools, worked at orphanages, dug up pipelines and planted gardens.
Their efforts in Jamaica have even inspired the locals. For example, staff members from the hotel they stay at as well as the staff of the school and orphanage they work with are now reaching out into the community, Bratcher said.
It will be up to the new coach to decide whether or not to continue the Jamaica trips. Bratcher plans to resume his Jamaica ministry with the students at PBA.
Though he plans to move at the end of his contract year, Bratcher has “no definite plans” as to what he’s going to do in West Palm Beach. He still hopes to continue his passion for soccer.
“He has made it very clear that he is not retiring,” Carmichael laughed. “He’s leaving the school but he’s still plans to head coach.”
“The book’s not over,” Bratcher said. “It’s just another chapter. And the ending chapter is always the best.”