Van Wagenen takes on mantle of Charger head coach
First-year head coach Andrew Van Wagenen speaks with senior Cade Anderson during a game against Orem. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
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Andrew Van Wagenen might be recognizable from his BYU soccer-playing days, the Spanish class he teaches at Corner Canyon High School or simply his bushy beard and long ponytail.
“It adds to my street cred a little bit. The kids like it,” he said of his hair.
Or maybe it’s because Van Wagenen now stalks the sidelines as head coach of the Chargers’ boys soccer team.
Having served as assistant coach during the first three years of the program’s existence, Van Wagenen is now the second ever head coach of Corner Canyon soccer.
“It’s more daunting I guess than anything else,” he said, adding that he hired an “awesome staff” to help. “Luckily I hired assistant coaches who know a lot more or are much better than I am.”
Having served as assistant coach during the first three years of the program’s existence, Van Wagenen said he’s happy to be part of the program.
“These kids are great,” he said. “They love this game, they love to work hard. For me it's just a privilege to be working with the kids and being able to coach.”
It’s a coaching career that started at BYU when he helped run youth camps. After graduating, Van Wagenen, now married with three children, worked with various club teams around the area including the Rangers in Utah Valley and Impact United in Salt Lake before taking his teaching post at Corner Canyon.
Coaching was one of the motivating factors that launched him into the teaching profession. Combining his love of the game and seeing the impact coaches have on players was another factor.
Senior keeper Jaxx Goodrich likes his coach’s style, both on and off the field.
“He's got a very good knowledge of the game, he knows what he’s doing. I think he’s a great coach, love him to death,” Goodrich said.
And his ponytail?
“I like his ponytail. I think he’s a lot more intimidating and respectable when he doesn’t have short hair,” Goodrich said.
With the tactical and technical understanding of the game always fluctuating and evolving, Van Wagenen said it’s a constant challenge finding ways to improve his team and outcoach his opponents.
“I like that challenge. There’s always something new you’re thinking about, something you can be learning, can be applying or implementing into the game or with your players,” he said. “That constant challenge, that constant novelty has been really fascinating to me.”
For a program that’s only four years old, the other task at hand is imprinting a style and philosophy on the team. While they favor a possession game with smart, creative players, building up expectations take time with a new school, let alone a new coach.
“We’re still a young program, so establishing a culture, tradition, rituals, ceremonies, protocols, policies with these kids to sort of help them feel they’re a part of a program that has a tradition, that’s been the biggest challenge so far,” Van Wagenen said.
To create that culture, he said everything needs to be done with purpose.
“If we’re mindful of what we’re doing and why we’re doing things, we add a purpose to everything, (then) over time we can create that tradition and x factor that makes the team unified,” Van Wagenen said.
Heading into spring break, the Chargers were 2-4. Having been involved in four one-goal games, Goodrich said he felt they’d been the better team, but just haven’t finished their chances.
“We struggle to put our final pass or shot away and I think if we better that and develop our finishing skills then a lot of these games will be different,” he said. “I don’t think the scores really show our skill and how much better we’ve progressed over the year.”
Van Wagenen said the players have “a lot of heart and a lot of talent,” adding that the Chargers have potential and were “dangerous, creating (scoring) opportunities” in every game.
“What will make the biggest difference is if our team can come together and play as a team,” he said. “I think we have the talent to play and compete and beat any team in our region … I’d be disappointed to not make a playoff spot this year. I really would.”