Welcome to Roque-chester: New Zebra boys soccer boss switched from playing to coaching after injury
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
After five years working on the coaching staff at Argos, Elmer Roque has a team of his own.
Roque was named the new boys soccer coach at Rochester June 21, and it completes a journey that started when his playing career was derailed by a torn ACL when he was a student at Argos.
Coaching became the way he could express his passion for the sport.
Next is communicating that passion to the Rochester community. Roque, 27, said he expects about 14 or 15 players to show up on the first day of practice Aug. 2, a lower number to which neither Rochester nor Roque is accustomed.
Roque said he has met with about 10 of his new players personally.
“One thing I’ve learned is that they are ready and willing to learn everything they can about soccer,” Roque said. “They have that desire to get better, and it’s just something that surprised me because Rochester isn’t all about soccer like Argos is. But even though it’s low numbers, I have plenty of guys that want to get better.”
Roque was born in Miami, but his family moved from Florida to Indiana when he was about 3 or 4. His father, who is also named Elmer and who moved to the United States from his native Honduras, introduced him to soccer and took him to games when he was 2 and taught him how to play.
“I can remember being around soccer since I was little, my whole life, pretty much,” Roque said. “He grew up in Honduras. He was always around soccer. … He just loved the sport.”
Roque’s freshman year of high school coincided with Todd VanDerWeele’s first season as coach. Roque showed off his strong scoring ability as a young player.
“I played a little bit of everything but mostly striker,” Roque said.
Then he tore his ACL playing basketball during his sophomore year. He tried playing soccer in the fall of his junior year but determined that his future was in coaching.
“I played my freshman and sophomore years for Todd at Argos, but unfortunately, I tore my ACL,” Roque said. “I couldn’t stay away from the sport, and I found a different way and that was to get involved in coaching.”
Roque’s younger brother Chino, who is eight years younger, became something of his personal project with 10th-grader Elmer tutoring second-grader Chino.
And Chino Roque became one of Argos’ greatest players.Chino scored 63 goals and dished out 35 assists in 76 career prep games. His 62nd and 63rd goals came in a 2-1 win over Indianapolis Lutheran in the 2019 Class 1A state title game in his final prep game.
“Honestly, I coached both he and his brother,” VanDerWeele said. “Chino, obviously, was very good on the ball, but Elmer had a much better shot on goal. I’m not sure Chino would believe that, but Elmer, while he wasn’t as attacking with the ball, but when he had the opportunity, he could put it in the back of the net as well as about anybody.”
After tutoring his brother, Roque landed on VanDerWeele’s Argos coaching staff as a 22-year-old.
In five years on the Argos staff, the Dragons won three regionals, two semistates and a state title in 2019.
Chino Roque, who currently plays at Goshen College, will be a volunteer assistant on his brother’s staff.
“Obviously, he has to be involved, you know,” Elmer quipped when talking about his brother.
Brent Markley, who was a volunteer assistant on the Argos staff with Elmer, will be Elmer’s varsity assistant at Rochester. Colton Markley, who is Brent’s son, will also be a volunteer assistant and will help with the goalkeepers.
In 2020, a season in which Argos made it back to the state finals before falling to Providence in the Class 1A state title game, Roque told VanDerWeele that he was interested in becoming a head coach.
When the Rochester job became open on April 29, Roque pursued the opportunity. Though VanDerWeele’s day job is as business manager for the Rochester Community Schools, he said that Roque pursued the Rochester vacancy on his own.
“I’ve been an assistant for Todd at Argos for about five years,” Roque said. “You know, I discussed with Todd, and I thought I was ready to move on to a higher level of soccer. I felt like I learned everything I could from Todd and gained enough knowledge (that) I thought I was ready to take that next step.”
In addition to VanDerWeele, he cited Pep Guardiola, the Spanish-born coach of Manchester City in the English Premier League and the 2010 FIFA World Coach of the Year, as a professional coach he has admired from afar. He admired how Guardiola’s teams move and pass the ball.
“It’s something I like to learn from and follow and hopefully teach some of the guys I’m around,” Roque said.
Roque was asked what he would like his teams to be known for.
“Being able to move that ball around the field like crazy at a fast pace,” Roque said. “Not necessarily always chasing or waiting for a counterattack. … Dominate the game. I know it’s not always going to be possible, but it’s one thing I always try to focus on is having that ball and moving the ball at our will and dominating the game.”
In addition to his work at Argos High School. he also was involved in the Argos rec league for 10 years. But clearly, in terms of the day-to-day management of a team, his coaching role model is VanDerWeele.
“He is very good at establishing relationships with his players and understanding them,” VanDerWeele said. “He has a very good technical understanding of the game. He understands obviously that technique’s important as well.”
Part of establishing those relationships starts before they ever enroll in high school. Roque wants to work with kids within the Fulton County Soccer Association. He said 180 kids have currently signed up to play soccer, and if 20 to 30 of them keep up with the sport, he can achieve long-term success.
He also said he wants to start a camp for kids where they can meet the varsity players and possibly play in front of a crowd at halftime of a varsity game.
“Something I tell a lot of people is that coming from Argos, you don’t have a bunch of athletes to choose from,” Roque said. “You get what you get. But one thing you can’t teach is heart.
“We can teach anybody to play soccer, but we go out there and win it for you. You’ve got to have that heart and that desire to win, and hard work gets you places. And that’s something he always taught me.”
Roque’s fiancee is named Angie. Elmer works at Keystone RV in Wakarusa.