One chess piece at a time: Soccer’s head coach John Hedlund has maintained methodical coaching for 23 years

One chess piece at a time: Soccer’s head coach John Hedlund has maintained methodical coaching for 23 years

One chess piece at a time: Soccer’s head coach John Hedlund has maintained methodical coaching for 23 years
October 08
12:22 2018

Under the direction of head coach John Hedlund, North Texas soccer has won 13 conference championships and more than 300 games, making the women’s soccer team the most successful athletic team in North Texas history. Hedlund has been the only head coach of the team since its conception in 1995.

Hedlund has seen winning seasons each of the 23 seasons he has coached, making him 1 of 10 coaches to do so at a single university.

Beginning his soccer career at age 6, Hedlund engulfed himself in the culture spending countless hours practicing. Hedlund would play pick-up games, work on his striking or come up with nearly any excuse to have a soccer ball at his feet.

“When I was about 13, soccer took all of my attention,” Hedlund said. “I had a strong passion for it, and I could not get enough of it. All the other sports went to the wayside.”

When his career at Plano High School ended in 1980, his dedication and hard work earned him a spot on the Midwestern State University men’s team in Wichita Falls, Texas. In his four years at Midwestern, Hedlund was a four-year letter winner and was named twice to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American team his junior and senior year.

Hedlund said his most memorable experience as a player was during the semi-finals game in the NAIA tournament, which was hosted by his alma mater. With his Mustangs down by two goals on the brink of getting eliminated, Hedlund rose to the occasion and scored a record-breaking four goals to send his team to the national championship game.

He was named the most valuable player in the 1983 NAIA men’s soccer tournament.

“That game took me to another level when it came to notoriety and exposure to scouts at the professional level,” Hedlund said. “It was my big ‘coming out’ game.”

Hedlund would conclude his collegiate career with 26 goals and 12 assists along with a degree in Criminal Justice.

After Midwestern, Hedlund would continue to find winning success. Hedlund won two championships with the Dallas Sidekicks, one in the 1987 season when the Sidekicks competed in the Major Indoor Soccer League and the second one in 1993 under the Continental Indoor Soccer League. He also helped the Dallas Rockets achieve a championship in 1991 and reach new heights for American soccer as they advanced to the round of four in the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football tournament where they ultimately lost to Club America in Mexico City.

After a 12-year professional playing career that ended in 1995, coaching was not Hedlund’s first choice. He went on to pursue a career in the criminal justice field where he quickly realized it was not for him. After discussing with family and friends, Hedlund reached out to the University of North Texas and its men’s soccer head coach Richard Lowe. This would begin Hedlund’s affiliation with the university.

Under Lowe’s supervision Hedlund would begin to develop himself as a coach and would eventually credit Lowe for his success as a coach.

“I learned how to act as a coach, how to coach college athletes, how to recruit, how to run a budget,” Hedlund said. “Under his system, I was able to learn every phase, which was [a] tremendous experience for me.”

Now, 13 championships later and in search of his fifth consecutive Conference USA title, Hedlund doesn’t often look back, as he is focused on the next task at hand.

“He really cares for the players, he wants us to enjoy it and have fun, but at the same time he expects to win,” senior midfielder Lauryn Bruffet said.

In the 2018 season, Hedlund’s team has a record of 7-1-1 and has only given up 3 goals while scoring 22 in a nine-game span. The Mean Green are No.5 in the nation in the goals-against average category. The team also has not lost a game at home since Oct. 31, 2008 -— the longest streak in NCAA. North Texas has been given recent national attention with 18 votes in the Top 25 and is currently ranked No. 31 in the nation.

“I like how we keep winning conference and getting rings, and I strongly believe that we can get another one this year,” senior forward Taylor Torrez said. “Having that winning tradition and being a part of it feels great.”

Strategy is what Hedlund finds to be his strength and said it has shaped his coaching style after it. He also attributes his success to recruiting the right players to play in his system. Knowing when to push and hold back and never being stubborn in his coaching ways keeps Coach Hedlund active and successful.

“It’s a chess match, it’s my system against the opponent’s,” Hedlund said. “I love the fact that you are trying to out-think your opponent.”

In the future Hedlund aims to take his team further and to higher levels. He aims to continue to compete in the NCAA tournament and not only compete but succeed. With UNT announcing its new “Light the Tower” master plan, which includes a new soccer venue and facilities, Hedlund thinks this goal is “very possible.”

Featured Image: Women’s soccer head coach John Hedlund laughs with fans after a game against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Hedlund has 13 conference championships and 300 plus wins with the Mean Green. Rachel Walters

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Josue Hernandez

Josue Hernandez

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