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Head Coach Andy Wagner ’86 Talks Success and Goals for Boys Soccer

In the fall, Head Coach Andy Wagner ’86 led Donegal Boys Soccer to its first ever appearance in the State tournament. He’s also the winningest coach in the program’s history. He recently shared his thoughts on what’s behind the program’s success, how he keeps players motivated and his plans for the future.

When he joined Donegal soccer in 2012, Coach Wagner brought years of both playing and coaching experience at the collegiate and high school levels, but when he talks about the success of the program, he gives a lot of credit to the local soccer community and its coaches, and the players:

“Our success can be attributed to all of the soccer people in the community. These kids have many opportunities to play soccer. I can name many influences these players have had to contribute to their development,” he said. “Donegal Youth Soccer (DYS) is an invaluable resource that gives these kids opportunities to play. You can drive past the high school on any given day, and you will see these kids out playing.  These players have a passion for playing and they are having fun doing it.  It is the influence from all of the coaches they come in contact with, and it comes through to the players.”

DYS forms teams at young ages and, while they lose players over the years, he said “the nucleus of those teams remains intact” which builds a strong foundation for the high school team. Plus, he said, success builds success: “I think the more success your program has the more attention your sport gets. I am seeing an uptick in numbers, but it is a double-edged sword.  Unfortunately, you can only play so many players.  In some years, our numbers are high. When we have high numbers, it cuts in on playing time and we lose some for that reason. I try to spread out the playing time but at times it is very difficult.”

Coach Wagner was a three-sport athlete at Donegal and has many players who play multiple sports as well. He works to capitalize his student-athletes’ love for the game to keep them working hard. “Motivating these kids to play can be difficult at times.  I try to develop a routine but at the same time change each and every practice,” he said. “It is a fine line giving the players repetition but switching it up to add variety to what they are doing.  The number one thing is making it fun! These kids are out there because they love soccer... what better way to motivate them?”

He also helps players who play multiple sports to find the right time to specialize, which could be a different time for each individual. “I specialized during my senior year, and it was the right thing for me to do.  Any time an athlete takes some time away from their main sport, there is a psychological maturation process that takes place as well as a recovery that takes place.  This is very important for proper growth and development,” he said.

 His plans for the program include growth and development as well. “I want the players to develop the same kind of passion for soccer as I have for the sport.  The sport of soccer has opened many doors for me and allowed me to travel and play all over the world.  If my players get half the opportunities that I have experienced, they will be very fortunate,” he said.

“My background in coaching began when attending Seattle Pacific University. I wanted to stay active during the summer while on break in preparation for the upcoming season, so I inquired about working at Middle States Soccer Camp.  I was hired in the summer of 1987 and worked there as a coach for over 20 years.  I ended up transferring to East Carolina University during that same year and finished my playing career there.  In 1991, I was asked by my former college coach to help out with the high school girls program at Rose High School while student teaching.  Also, I was the Assistant Soccer Coach at ECU while finishing up my second degree.  After graduating from ECU with my second degree, I was hired at Washington High School as the Boy's Head Soccer Coach.  Two years later, I started the first girl's program at that same school.  After four years at Washington High School, I returned to Pennsylvania where I was the head soccer coach at Manheim Central High School for four years.  In my final two years at Manheim Central, I was both the girl's and boy's head coach.  I then was hired as the head boys soccer coach at McClean High School in McClean, Virginia, and coached there for seven years before joining Donegal in the 2012 season.”