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John’s Journal: Soccer Is A Family Affair For St. Charles, Apple Valley

Three Brothers Are Coaches, Their Sons Are Team Members

Posted: Thursday, October 5, 2023 - 9:35 PM


The Barclays (from left to right): Miles, Josh, Russ, Ben, Nic, Jonas, Cooper.

The result of a boys soccer matchup on Thursday night in Apple Valley reads like one of a million such competitions: Apple Valley 2, St. Charles/Lewiston-Altura 1.

Minnesota geography experts may lift an eyebrow while wondering why the St. Charles/Lewiston-Altura Saints would travel 95 miles from the southeast part of the state to play the Eagles in the Twin Cities suburbs. And why Apple Valley, a Class 3A team, was hosting the Class 1A Saints.

The answer is simple: Family.

The cast of key characters includes …

--Ben Barclay, head boys soccer coach at St. Charles/Lewiston-Altura.

--Russ Barclay, brother of Ben and assistant boys soccer coach at St. Charles/Lewiston-Altura.

--Nic Barclay, brother of Ben and Russ and head boys soccer coach at Apple Valley.

And then there are the soccer players involved…

--Brothers Jonas (senior) and Miles Barclay (sophomore), sons of Ben Barclay and players for St. Charles/Lewiston-Altura.

--Sophomore Josh Barclay, son of Russ Barclay and also a player at St. Charles/Lewiston-Altura.

--Eighth-grader Cooper Barclay, another son of Russ and a junior-varsity soccer player at St. Charles/Lewiston-Altura.

As much as all the Barclays enjoyed being with and competing against each other on Thursday, someone dear to everyone was missing.

Robyn Barclay, Ben’s wife and mother to Jonas and Miles, died in an automobile accident on July 20, 2019. She was 40 years old and left a huge void that extended well beyond her family.

After Robyn’s death, her family was flooded with support from people in the St. Charles area and beyond. As a way to honor Robyn and pay it forward, the Barclays wanted to help others in need. They created a foundation called Robyn’s Rally, and the organization’s website ( states its mission as “Providing support for community initiatives and local families in need by bringing people together in memory of Robyn Barclay.”

There were two big events this week. The first was Thursday’s soccer game. On Saturday, the Barclays will gather again in St. Charles for a Robyn’s Rally day of support, camaraderie and fundraising. The day will include bike rides of 56 and 20 miles, along with a four-mile run/walk/bike on a route through St. Charles. In the evening, a dinner and silent auction will be held.

“The walk is one Robyn used to do all the time,” said Ben, who met Robyn when they were students at Luther College in Iowa. “She was a remarkable woman.” (To learn more about Robyn, read her obituary here:

“The community really came together and supported me and our two boys,” Ben said. “We knew other families are in need and we decided to keep it going. We’ve been helping families since then.”

The Barclay brothers are all graduates of Apple Valley High School, and Nic’s family now lives in the house where they grew up. Nic is a busy coach, working as an assistant with the Apple Valley wrestling team as well as the track team while owning and operating a landscape and irrigation business. Russ Barclay, who teaches in Sr. Charles, also coaches track.

“Growing up, sports were a huge part of our lives,” said Ben, a former teacher in Sr. Charles who now works as a writer and editor for a Rochester company involved in the trade show business. “When I started teaching here at St. Charles, coaching was kind of a natural segue.”

Thursday’s game marked the end of the regular season for both teams, and St. Charles/Lewiston-Altura had an especially memorable run. The Saints finished with a record of 10-2-3, did not allow a goal in their first 11 games and outscored their opponents 67-7. Apple Valley finished the regular season with a mark of 8-7-1.

“It really is amazing,” Ben Barclay said of the Saints’ defensive prowess. “I handle the tactics but honestly it’s one of those things where the kids make the coach look good. We have a group of kids who have grown up playing soccer and they do a great job.”

Thursday’s match was the first time the Barclay’s teams have met, but it could become a regular occurrence. Because family is important.

--MSHSL senior content creator John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected] 



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