If one asks a Kirkwood teacher about an upcoming Webster-Kirkwood soccer game, he/she might not expect to hear about how much fun it is to play against Kirkwood, but that’s exactly what Thom Champion will say.
Champion is a teacher and former soccer coach at Kirkwood high school, and this year he takes over as Webster’s head women’s soccer coach.
Champion is no stranger to soccer: he played in high school, at Forest Park college, and then went on to coach college/high school soccer.
Champion said, “Well, [coaching is] a lot harder. Playing is easy. You just go out and play. As a coach you’ve got to deal with players, you’ve got to deal with parents, and you have to deal with grades. That’s a lot. It’s not just on field coaching; that’s hard enough.”
At the end of last year, Webster lost its previous coach, Chris Allen, who took a job as an assistant coach for the Saint Louis University women’s soccer team.
“[Allen] was a big part of our program,” senior goalie and Arkansas State commit Megan McClure said.
“He brought a lot of energy, and it’s definitely going to be different, and we were all sad to let him go, but we are all happy that he’s gone to an amazing coaching opportunity at SLU.”
Many returning players are upset about Allen leaving, but excited for the change and the ability to continue some of the program’s traditions with Champion.
On what traditions she wants to be kept in the soccer program, senior left wing back Maggie Nash said, “I want to keep Morning Madness (early morning preseason practices); I want to keep the Martin Luther King tournament; the chicken wing eating competition. On a program level I want to keep all of our 12 core values (the team’s shared team values) and to keep our team like a family,”
About how his coaching approach is different than Allen’s, Champion said, “That’s hard to say. I mean, I wasn’t as practiced as him. I think it’s just a different style probably. They were a good team last year, so I don’t think there’s a huge difference as far as motivating players. It’s always a difference of style and play.”
“We get along well, and the players just play, and the coaches just coach,” said Champion on how the coaching transition is affecting the team.
“Players are used to that; they change coaches all the time…they play select, and they have a different coach. They are always changing teams. They adapt pretty well.”
The senior Webster Groves women’s soccer players believe with Champion, they can continue their traditions while creating new ones, and this change in coaching will help maintain their winning ways and possibly lead to a State title.
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