Free State High athletic director Mike Hill didn’t have to look far in his search to replace departing boys and girls soccer coach Jason Pendleton.
The school announced Wednesday that Kelly Barah, who served the past three years as an assistant soccer coach for the Firebirds, has been named head coach of both programs.
“There’s a whole lot of excitement,” Barah said Wednesday. “Basically, realizing that I could now actually be a part of this program and put a little bit of my own take into it; not necessarily changing anything huge, but it’s always different when you’re the head guy.”
On paper, the changing of the guard looks to be a fairly simple process.
For the past three years, Barah has worked with both the boys and girls soccer programs at Free State.
The boys are coming off a 16-5 season and berth in the Class 6A state championship game; the girls lost in the first round of the regional tournament Tuesday to finish the season 7-9-1.
Barah also served as a coach with the Kansas Soccer Academy and the Olympic Development Program.
“With this transitional phase, I’m just thinking about building off of what we have,” Barah said. “With the season the boys had this year, the girls season ended kind of sadly, but they had a good year, too. Obviously, there will be some changes, but I’m just focused on building off of what we’ve done.”
Barah said his focus now is on organizing summer camps and meeting with members of both teams.
He also praised the program’s progress under Pendleton, who will be taking over boys and girls soccer-coaching duties at the new Blue Valley Southwest High School after 11 seasons at Free State.
“I love what Jason has done for the program and the expectations he’s set,” Barah said. “... He has been a very great resource for me, just getting me into the coaching ranks and being there any time I needed help with anything. And I think he still will be a great resource for me.”