Former Tacoma Stars goalie, Stadium coach ‘fighting for his life’ after being hit by car

Former Stadium High School soccer coach John Baretta works with his team on May 25, 2011. Baretta was struck by a car and critically injured Thursday in Tacoma.
Former Stadium High School soccer coach John Baretta works with his team on May 25, 2011. Baretta was struck by a car and critically injured Thursday in Tacoma. Staff file, 2011

The original Tacoma Stars goalkeeper and longtime Stadium High School soccer coach who led the Tigers to the school district’s only soccer title is fighting for his life after being struck by a car Thursday afternoon while walking in South Tacoma.

John Baretta, 62, was walking home from work as a teacher at Gray Middle School when he was struck by a 28-year-old driver in the intersection of South 36th and South Tyler streets just before 4 p.m., according to Tacoma police.

The driver turned south onto Tyler from 36th and didn’t see Baretta, police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said. The driver is not expected to be charged for hitting him.

Baretta was transported to Tacoma General Hospital, where he remains in critical condition Friday afternoon, son Chris Baretta said.

“He’s showing signs of improvement, so we just hope that he can continue,” Chris said.

John Baretta was born May 6, 1955, in Edmonton, Alberta, and came to the United States to play college soccer at Eastern Illinois University, where he was an All-American in 1978 and where he met his wife, Kayla. He then embarked on an eight-year professional career, including a four-season stop backstopping with the Tacoma Stars from 1983-86 and participating with the Canadian national team.

After he retired from professional soccer, Baretta settled down in the Tacoma area, starting to work for Tacoma Public Schools as a substitute teacher in January 1990. After a year teaching physical education at Browns Point Elementary School, he moved to Meeker Elementary School, where he taught for 20 years. He started teaching at Gray Middle School in 2012.

“Our hearts are with John and his family,” Tacoma Public Schools Superintendent Carla Santorno said in a statement. “We are all in his corner.”

Baretta took over the Stadium High boys and girls soccer programs in the 1999-2000 season, then led the Tigers boys to a 4A state title in May 2010. The 19-1 team beat Lake Stevens 1-0 to finish the season ranked No. 8 in the country.

The Tigers made it back to the state final the next season despite losing 12 seniors, only to lose 3-2 to Skyline High School on a late goal.

Among the notable alumni for Baretta while coaching at Stadium was Major League Soccer midfielder Raphael Cox, who took over the boys program last spring.

Baretta’s coaching career included supervising Chris, his only child, who ended up playing in college at the University of South Carolina Upstate from 2002-05.

“Because of him, I played college soccer,” said Chris, who later worked for the Seattle Sounders and Seattle Seahawks for six years before becoming an assistant athletic director at the University of North Texas.

Chris praised his father’s ability to teach children life lessons and instill determination, either in school or on the soccer field, and said his father took pride in teaching at Gray, a Title I school.

“He loves giving back to the community and making an impact with the kids who need it the most,” Chris said.

The Baretta family is hopeful that John can continue to recover from the injuries he sustained Thursday.

“Just like he coached his teams, he’s fighting for his life,” Chris Baretta said. “He’s fighting until the end. We’re confident he’ll hopefully be able to bounce back.”

Kenny Ocker: 253-597-8627, @KennyOcker