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Central Hardin’s Mike Wiersema said he learned his lesson about informing his players about his upcoming career coaching milestones.
While serving as the boys’ varsity coach at Hammond School in Columbia, S.C., Wiersema would have notched his 200th win had his team won the state final, but it lost.
“The guy that hired me carried around the plaque for the year and then gave it to me the first win the next year,” Wiersema said.
Wiersema reached the 400 plateau Jan. 10, 2008, while he was the boys’ coach at Allen, Texas. The win could have come in the 2007 state tournament’s sweet 16, but his team lost in a shootout.
With career win 500 on the line Thursday night against the John Hardin Bulldogs in the Boys’ 5th Region Soccer Tournament championship at North Hardin, Wiersema didn’t want to put any more pressure on the Bruins.
However, after his Texas and South Carolina squads had chastised him for not giving them extra incentive in their playoff games, Wiersema did let the cat out of the bag last week.
“I’m not sure if it helped them play hard, but we won by a little bit. So maybe it did,” said Wiersema, who is 80-39-11 in six seasons with the Bruins heading into Monday night’s showdown at 8th Region Tournament champion North Oldham (19-4-1) in the first round of the KHSAA state tournament.
Thursday night, Wiersema downplayed the win. He was OK standing near the sideline while the Bruins celebrated their State berth on Troy Wade Field.
Central Hardin athletic director Chris Bauer said Wiersema made the right call.
“While no win is easy to get and 500 is a tremendous accomplishment, nothing needs to be taken away from what the young men accomplished,” Bauer said. “Now obviously you see it in soccer with the boys and where we’ve come from to where we are now, but what a lot of people don’t see is his role in the school. You feel his impact a little bit everywhere. He’s been some place and he’s done some things. Hopefully he stays here and retires here.”
In addition to earning the program’s second State berth – the Bruins finished 20-4-2 in 2010 after losing to Daviess County in the state semifinals at Georgetown College – Thursday marked a single-season record 21st win of the year.
“They’re what it’s about. It’s never been about me,” said Wiersema, who began his coaching career in the spring of 1985 at Hixson, Tenn. “It’s about having the chance to get back to the elite eight with the new format we have.”
Central Hardin senior wing Ryan Keeney, who scored the game-winning goal in the region final when he headed in a free kick from junior Jordan Smith in overtime, said the Bruins didn’t have any added pressure trying to get Wiersema to the 500 mark.
“That’s just amazing, the fact that I could be a part of that and experience that with Coach,” Keeney said.
By the time Wiersema arrived at Abilene, Texas, in 1997, he already had a 307-88-21 record spanning 12 years combined with Hixson and the Baylor School in Tennessee, Alderson Broaddus College in West Virginia and Hammond. In five seasons at Abilene, he won four district titles and never missed the playoffs.
Before he arrived at Central Hardin in 2008, he spent six years at Allen. He coached both genders (separate seasons) the first year before coaching the boys for five more years.
Since arriving in Cecilia, Wiersema has made quite the impression on rival coaches such as Elizabethtown’s Jon Parsons and North Hardin’s Jim Stone as well as Central Hardin girls’ coach Hal Bender.
“His knowledge and his experience is amazing,” Parsons said. “I’m at 86 (wins). I need 14 more for 100, so 500 is amazing to me. I’m eight years in and still don’t have 100. But that just shows how much he loves the game and him sticking around that long. Just think about all the kids that have benefited from his knowledge.”
As an opposing coach, Stone said during a game, the discipline Wiersema instills in his teams becomes evident.
“He’s very intense. I don’t talk with him a lot but when I do talk with him, I see a very intense man,” said Stone, who had a bird’s-eye view for Wiersema’s 498th, 499th and 500th wins as he served as the region tournament’s timekeeper. “But underneath those layers of scowls, you can tell he generally cares about his players and he knows what he’s doing. He barely says anything during the game, and that’s probably a good indication that he does a lot of good coaching. We don’t get to see what he does in his practices, but his boys are well coached and well prepared.”
Bender said Wiersema taught him in order for a high school program to be successful, it has to learn soccer is more than just a July-November sport.
“Mike’s helped me out quite a bit with the 4-2-3-1 and has given me a lot of good ideas of how to play it, but he’s also shown me how to increase enthusiasm in the sport,” said Bender, who earned his 100th career win in the postseason. “Mike’s instilled a year-long love for the sport. They’re dying to be out there all the time – both the boys and girls – and his enthusiasm has been contagious.”
Wiersema said his wife Meg has been instrumental to his success, as well as helping him keep track of his record.
“If it wasn’t for my wife keeping track of things,” the 50-year-old Wiersema said, “I wouldn’t even know what neighborhood I was in.”
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at 270-505-1758 or email@example.com.