Graduating 14 seniors can have quite an impact on a high school athletic program, even one as dominant as the Owen Warlassies soccer team of recent years. But for head coach David Fiest, the turnover provides an opportunity.
Fiest is in his seventh year as coach of the Warlassies. He is the architect of a team that went 30-3-4 in the Western Highlands Conference between 2012-2014. Just nine matches into the current season, he's unphased by having only three experienced senior players.
"There is nothing more rewarding than watching a team grow and seeing where they end up," Fiest said. "It is something that every coach should have to go through. It challenges you as a coach and shows you what kind of coach you are."
Owen opened the season with a difficult non-conference schedule, and the team that Fiest considers freshmen- and sophomore-heavy responded by winning two out of its first three matches. The start was encouraging, but Fiest is aware of how difficult it is for a young team to remain consistent while developing a deeper understanding of the sport.
"A lot of things we are having to teach are things that they already know how to do. But we are working on teaching them how to do them better," he said. "We really want them to be able to do the right things consistently."
Fiest's approach to coaching is fluid. Instead of forcing each player to play the game a certain way, he focuses on how to build on individual strengths within the context of a system.
"I'm going to take the team and players that I have, and I'm going to find what works for them," Fiest said. "I will give them everything that they need and make it work from there"
As a team, Fiest says that the biggest strength that the current Warlassies possess is chemistry, a quality that helped his last group of players become the number seven 2-A team in the state. The ability to work as a unit is paramount to the development of a young team, according to assistant coach Brandon Pittman.
"Developing chemistry leads into knowing how to play together," Pittman said. "Players learn their roles and responsibilities on the field, and that translates into better anticipation on the field."
Fiest is confident that his young team possesses the talent to keep the program competitive in the conference. But he is relying on his group to become "hungry for knowledge" while learning the nuances of the game, he said.
"I'm looking forward to watching this team grow," he said. "Nothing is more rewarding than that."