Joe Waldron becomes new soccer coach at FSHS ahead of 2021-22 campaign
photo by: Courtesy
When Free State’s soccer players take the field this school year, they’ll be led by a new coach who’s had decades of experience leading club, high school and college soccer teams.
Earlier this week, Joe Waldron was named the new head coach of the boys and girls soccer programs at FSHS. He comes to Free State after 10 years as an assistant for Mill Valley High School’s girls and boys programs, and he was the interim leader of Mill Valley’s girls team this past spring.
“I’m thrilled,” said Waldron, who will also be teaching physical education. “I look forward to getting out and working with the kids and representing this school moving forward. It’s good to have it official, and now I can actually start to put some of the things in place that I’ve been planning.”
Free State’s previous head coach, Hussam Mohammed, stepped down in the spring, and Nathan Mangold has been leading the team in an interim capacity in the offseason.
Waldron, 58, applied for the job in June because he thought Free State had the right environment to build a successful program.
“I’ve been coaching a long time, and I know when things feel right and when they don’t,” Waldron said. “Being on the outside looking in, I think (Free State) is a fantastic place. I think there is good support, I think there are good athletes and I think it is a good school.
“I think I can build a very successful program there,” he said.
Waldron has a history of building strong programs at both the club and high school levels.
He started his coaching career as a head coach at Shawnee Mission West, and he later led Blue Valley North’s program. After that, he jumped to the collegiate level, becoming the top assistant at the University of Evansville and then holding the head coach job at Benedictine College.
But Waldron eventually wanted to return to the prep ranks, and he became Topeka High’s coach in 1994. In 1997, he led the Trojans to a state title, was named the Class 6A coach of the year and earned a coach of the year honor from the National Federation of High School Coaches.
Waldron left Topeka High in 2001 and took a brief hiatus from coaching, but he eventually came back, first at Leavenworth and then in his most recent job, his assistant coaching role at Mill Valley. He said he particularly enjoyed the 10 years he spent with the Jaguars.
“I’m just thankful for the time that I had there and the opportunity (and) also the impact that I had on the program,” Waldron said. “That program is rock solid from top to bottom, much of which I’ve had a direct hand in.”
In January, after the head coach of the Mill Valley girls team stepped down, Waldron was named the interim head coach. The timing of the coaching change left him with little time to prepare before the season began, but the team didn’t fall behind — in fact, the Jaguars won the Sunflower League title and a regional championship, and Waldron was named the league’s coach of the year.
Waldron credited the players, particularly his 10 seniors, for the team’s success. He said he’s always been focused on what his players want and on helping them grow, and that he considers himself a players’ coach.
“I think I’ve always been able to relate to the players,” Waldron said. “Everything I do is for them. I truly enjoy working with the players. I enjoy making the players better. I enjoy helping them attain their goals.”
In just a few days, Waldron will meet his new players on both Free State soccer squads. He will then turn his attention to the boys soccer season in the fall, which is slated to begin with tryouts on Aug. 16.
“I’m excited about that and just to get everything underway,” Waldron said. “I know everybody has been anxious to start, including me.”