North Texas Daily

Hedlund’s North Texas soccer roots extend further than Denton

Hedlund’s North Texas soccer roots extend further than Denton

October 15
00:59 2015

Clay Massey | Staff Writer

@Clay_FC

As a starting defender at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, John Hedlund’s team was down 2-0 in a game where the winner would play in the 1983 national championship game.

But instead of hanging his head, the now head coach of the Mean Green soccer team put his team on his back, refusing to let his season end.

“I started to drift up-field. Here comes one goal, here comes another goal,” Hedlund recalled. “That was a day I will always remember because we ended up winning 4-2 and advancing.”

The Texas native scored all four of his team’s goals in that match, tying a national tournament record for most goals by one player in a single game. His performance helped spark interest from the United States National soccer team. Hedlund also earned a call-up for Olympic qualification games and played in several tournaments as a defender on the U.S. squad.

It provided Hedlund a unique college experience, to say the least, as Hedlund said it was a rare occasion for someone from Midwestern State to play on a national team.

“It was kind of crazy back then,” Hedlund said. “You know, you’re going to college, then you’re going to South Korea, Finland, and Sweden all these places with the national team while college is going on. So you’re missing some school but the professors worked with me. It was a great experience for me. Going and playing in all these different countries was pretty special.”

But after missing his Olympic chances to injury, Hedlund forged a professional career as a defender in New York and the Dallas – Fort Worth area that spanned 12 years. He won two championships with the Dallas Sidekicks in 1987 and 1993 and one championship with the Richardson Rockets in 1991, while also finishing runner-up in the U.S Open Cup that same season.

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Hedlund has his rings from all the championships he has been a part of throughout his career, including his tenure with the Dallas Sidekicks. Colin Mitchell | Staff Photographer

Having gotten to an age where he could not be competitive as a player, Hedlund shifted his career to coaching. He got his first chance as a coach at the University of North Texas as an assistant on the now dissolved men’s soccer program under head coach Richard Lowe.

He would then get the chance to start the women’s program from scratch in 1994. Hedlund began his winning ways as head coach, posting an 11-6-1 record in the program’s inaugural season in 1995. Over the next 20 years, Hedlund led the school to nine conference titles and coached 67 all conference players.

Hedlund is the only coach in North Texas women’s program history and has etched his name into the NCAA history books by holding the record for most winning seasons in a row by an active coach at 20 seasons.

His steady success mirrors one of his coaching idols – Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United. In 27 years with the Premier League squad, Ferguson won multiple championships, similar to Hedlund in his 21 years at North Texas.

“You know I guess it’s very similar,” said Hedlund. “He was there for so long and won many titles, and that’s what we’re trying to continue to do here. I guess that’s why they’re my favorite team.

One of Hedlund’s many all-conference players is senior goalkeeper Jackie Kerestine. In the midst of her redshirt senior season, Kerestine has spent five years with Hedlund and said no coach can compare.

“It’s different,” Kerestine said with a chuckle. “He’s a character. He’s fun to play under. He knows what he’s talking about and he makes it a fun atmosphere. He says the funniest things. I love him.”

Senior captain and midfielder Lindsey Hulstein has been part of three of North Texas’ last four conference titles under Hedlund and understands the rarity of having a coach who has been with a program for so long.

“Not many programs, no matter what the sport is, have someone who has been coach for 20-plus years,” Hulstein said. “I think obviously he knows what he’s talking about. We all really trust him. He prepares for the games really well, and it helps us.”

Hedlund’s winning precedent for North Texas soccer has become something his players channel year in and year out. It also helps him recruit quality talent consistently, which plays hand-in-hand with the team’s sustained success.

Fortunately for the Mean Green, Hedlund has found a home with North Texas.

“I think I’ve given this program stability, foundation and tradition,” said Hedlund. “There’s a lot of history here. Recruits know about the level of excellence we shoot for year in and year out. Recruiting becomes a little bit easier because of what we’ve built here. The player that’s highly competitive, wants to win titles, wants to play a tough schedule and stay close to home to play in front of their families, they find this is the ideal situation.”

Featured Image: Head Soccer Coach John Hedlund tells the team they need to work on finishing in front of the goal ahead of their upcoming game on Oct. 7. Colin Mitchell | Staff Photographer

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