New HHS coach has a 'passion for the game'
By AUSTIN COLBERT
Jim Maska credits many people for helping him discover his passion for soccer, but at the top of that list is Justin Dempsey, a longtime coach for the Hays Soccer Club, and his three sons. All of them pushed him toward a path that would eventually overtake his life for the best.
"I was standing on the sideline and I was talking a little bit to a couple of the parents and Justin overheard me. Justin said, 'Hey, you really want to learn the game?' 'Yeah, I do.' After that it was all out," Maska said.
"Both my older boys, Jeremy and Jordan both, tried football one year and said, 'Dad, we just love soccer too much.' I let my kids choose what they wanted. I didn't say you have to do this or this. I just wanted them to be happy. They just really took to soccer whole heartedly and that's when my passion really grew and grew and grew."
Maska, a 1983 Hays High School graduate, never played soccer growing up, instead playing football, basketball and competing in track and field. But through his children, the oldest of which are now 23 and 21, found a passion for coaching soccer, a passion that inspired new Hays High Athletic Director Chris Michaelis to name Maska the boys' and girls' soccer coach at HHS for the upcoming school year.
Maska, who has spent the last two seasons as an assistant soccer coach at Hays High, is replacing Saul Hernandez, who resigned last month after accepting a teaching position in Liberal after one year of leading the program.
"What I liked about him is he has a lot of passion for the game," said Michaelis, who coached Hays High soccer for 17 seasons before stepping down in the spring of 2013. "He is concerned not just with the kids as soccer players but as human beings. He is going to put the kids first. It might be what you need to do to have a very good, successful program."
Maska, 49, got his start as a coach 14 years ago with the Hays Soccer Club. Prior to his two years as an assistant at Hays High, Maska spent four years as an assistant at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School, working alongside current TMP girls' coach Darryl Wellbrock. Maska also has a background coaching basketball and spent two seasons coaching at TMP under Alan Billinger before he retired.
Maska has been very successful as a club coach, guiding multiple teams to tournament championships over the summer months. He has coached everything from the Under-14 teams to the U-19 teams, and is excited about getting to continue to work with the high school kids, most of which he has known for a long time through the camps.
"It's been one of my dreams to be able to eventually be able to do that and just to get the kids to love the game as much as I've grown to love it," Maska said. "I just really stayed involved with (the kids) and it's nice to hear their voice. It's just been an amazing thing for me. I don't feel like I have three sons, I feel like I have 100 kids out there."
Both of Maska's older sons earned college scholarships for soccer, and his youngest, 13-year-old Jacob, plays on a 14-under club team.
Maska, whose hire was approved Monday by the USD 489 Board of Education, will be a Rule 10 coach. He currently manages No Pest Inc. in Hays outside of coaching.