A new direction
EHS coaches possess different backgrounds
It's not often a kicker for a college football team is selected as the new head coach for a relatively new soccer program. But that's exactly what happened with Matt Higgins in Eudora. There's nothing to worry about, though, as Higgins said his background is in soccer.
"I graduated from Pittsburg State in May, but I didn't play college soccer," Higgins said. "I got a better scholarship to kick for the football team. I got that position because of my soccer background. I've played soccer since I was four."
Higgins said this was his first official coaching level position, although he played soccer in high school and club in college.
Enter new assistant coach Paul Thevarajoo. Thevarajoo said he is no stranger to coaching, as he has coached in numerous recreation leagues. He said his coaching experience and Higgins' playing experience will, no doubt, coalesce and create a strong program.
"Matt's played the game a lot but hasn't coached as much, where I've coached a lot," Thevarajoo said. "Our skills will really compliment each other."
Higgins said although Eudora is not known for its soccer program now, that should all change within the next few years.
"I'd like to see it as a respected program with opponents not looking forward to facing us," Higgins said. "We will play strong 90-minute games."
But in order to get to that point, Higgins said he and Thevarajoo will stress basic fundamentals, like passing drills and working together as a team, and then build up from there.
Higgins said the biggest problem he has noticed so far with the team is the somewhat lax defense it plays. But with running practice drills and the team getting closer, that problem should iron itself out.
For more immediate goals, Higgins said he was planning on the team completing the season over 500 and defeating Kansas Highway 10 rival De Soto High School.
Already, though, the new coaches have a good relationship with the team. Thevarajoo said that's because they've been playing pick-up games all summer, creating a close bond among the coaches and team.
"We've been running some pick-up games on Wednesdays and Fridays," Thevarajoo said. "It's allowed the kids to get to know us. We've had about 30 people show consistently."
EHS junior Connor Hartpence said the scrimmages have been a good bonding experience and a good indicator of where the season could go.
"I think both of our new coaches are awesome," Hartpence said. "I think they are going to lead us to a great season. Because Matt is so young, he's kind of like one of us, and that's pretty cool."
Hartpence said he really respected the new coaches stepping into a program that hasn't won many games.
"For them to step up into that and try to turn things around, I think is just really brave," Hartpence said.
Maybe bold would be a better word to describe what Thevarajoo said he and Higgins plan on doing with the EHS soccer program. He said they will bring soccer to the forefront in Eudora and will be respected by opposing teams.
"We are totally changing the way the game is played," Thevarajoo said. "We are going to change the way soccer is perceived in this town, and we are expecting a lot of the kids."
At the EHS soccer camp Monday evening, drills ran smoothly and were very organized. As he was talking to Thevarajoo, a stray ball made its way to Higgins. Without giving it a second thought, he picked the ball up and kicked it so hard it flew over all of the players' heads.
"Too hard?" Higgins asked Thevarajoo.
"Too hard," Thevarajoo said.
You just can't take the football kicker out of the new soccer coach.