By AUSTIN COLBERT
There is nothing typical about the coaching situation for the Thomas More Prep-Marian boys' soccer team this season. The Monarchs' head coach is a 25-year-old in his first season, while the assistants are both former TMP boys' head coaches with years of experience.
It's weird, but it works.
"I value their opinion a lot. There are some things I do differently than they did before, and they are on board with that," said TMP head coach Chris Jones. "They are willing to learn and I'm willing to let them have freedom when they coach. I'll sit there and listen to them and we make decisions together. It's not just my way or the highway. It's a collective coaching agreement as a whole, which I think as a program we can take to new heights."
Jones is a native of Tulsa, Okla., and played collegiately at Northeastern Oklahoma State University. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2013 where he was the president and head coach of the men's club soccer team.
He moved to Hays soon after graduating from OU to become an assistant coach with the Fort Hays State University women's soccer team, a position he still retains despite adding the title of TMP head coach to his resume.
Jones replaces Shawn Lawson, who coached the team the past five seasons before being let go because of a roster infraction during the 2013 season.
"I played a player last year who wasn't legal yet, and I thought he was legal. ... I made a mistake, and part of it was the communication between me and another assistant," said Lawson, who returned this season as one of TMP's assistant coaches. "It's just a minor step back for me. I love coaching the game. I was more upset at myself than anything because I had let that slip."
The third coach on the staff is current TMP girls' head coach Darryl Wellbrock, who coached the boys' team from its inaugural season in 2005 until Lawson took over in 2009, the year Wellbrock became the girls' head coach.
This is the 10th year of the TMP soccer program, with the entire decade of head coaches being represented on this year's staff.
"We are all willing to work together for the sake of the program," Lawson said. "We don't really care who is head coach as long as what gets done is we produce soccer players, produce young men that hold up the standards of the school. So it all works out, whether we are assistants or head coaches or water boys."
TMP will get its season underway on Friday with a 6 p.m. game at Wichita Independent, the same team that ended the Monarchs' season at 4-14 a year ago in the Class 4-3-2-1A regionals.
While the team has plenty of experience on the coaching staff, it also returns a lot on the field, led by seniors Jordan Pfannenstiel, Tyler Rueschhoff and Jack You.
"I think Tyler Rueschhoff and Jordan Pfannenstiel will play a really big role for us this year as seniors as far as leadership goes. And Jack You as well. I think those three guys will definitely step up for us," Jones said.
"I think we have some really key guys and we do have some depth, which is good as well. I think we have some guys and some role players that will really step in when they are called upon. The level of play won't really drop off that much if they get subbed in."
Rueschhoff will play primarily midfield while Pfannenstiel is likely to play a combination of forward and midfielder. Other key players include senior forward Liam Stults, and defenders Lane Fisher, Kameron Schmidt and Robin Han. Seniors Brady Hutchison and Keynan Hysten are competing for the starting goalkeeper position, which will be decided by Lawson.
"The guys have come a long way in the last week," Jones said. "I'm really excited to finally see them play in a real game and not just practice. I think they are ready. One more day to go over some stuff and I think they will really show what TMP is all about on Friday."