It’s hard for Sam Nansel to contain his excitement. After Thursday’s school board meeting, where Nansel was confirmed as the new head coach for both the boys and girls soccer programs at Hillsboro High School, he sounded as if he was ready to hit the pitch and get things going right away.
“I’m ecstatic to have been given this opportunity,” he gushed after the announcement. “I went to school at Hillsboro, I played all four years at the varsity level, and have been the assistant varsity coach for both the boys and girls for the past seven years. I always dreamed of having an opportunity to be the head coach in a community that means so much to me, and now I finally have that opportunity.”
There’s an old proverb that states, “familiarity breeds contempt.” There’s nothing further from the truth in regards to this coach that bleeds blue. “I like the familiarity it will bring,” he admitted “It will be a bit of a transition moving from the varsity assistant/goalie coach to the head coach, but I have a lot of respect for the players, and I’ve always felt like they have a lot of respect for me. Ultimately, I think being a familiar face will help the transition go smoothly.”
There’s no doubt Coach Nansel has little time to let this sink in. The season is fast approaching, but he believes he and the boys team are ready. “I do have a good handle on what I’d like to do with the boys team as we prepare for this season,” he said. “My goal from day one is going to be to get back to that state quarterfinal game and win it this year. I believe we have the players to do it. There are going to be a lot of unknowns because of the current social situation, but I will plan and prepare just like I would any other year, and we’ll all just take it day by day.”
In that same vein, the girls missed out on their 2020 season in the spring. There is no disputing that the lost experience is something every coach around the country has to deal with in one way or another. “We have a girls camp scheduled at the end of July, and I will plan kick arounds in the winter so we can begin to rebuild that connection,” Coach Nansel pointed out. “Missing out on the spring season is going to affect every team in the state, but I think it will especially affect a team like us who were entering a rebuilding phase. Those girls missed out on a lot of training and game experience. We’re just going to have to work that much harder leading up to the spring, and when we finally get there.”
Nansel knows he has big shoes to fill, taking over for former coach and now AD Chris Schacht. “Coach Schacht is by far the biggest coaching influence I have,” he said. “He was my high school coach from 2000-2004, and I have served as his varsity assistant on both the boys and girls side for the past seven seasons. Chris has built this program from the ground up. My plan is to continue building on the groundwork provided by him, and eventually put my own stamp on the program.”
And he’ll do it by building off his players’ strengths. “Every year there’s a new set of players that come with their own set of strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “I like to get some training sessions in, and get a good look at what we have. Then I can assess exactly where we’re at, and come up with a vision for our team that plays to our strengths. Beyond that, I want to motivate my athletes to enhance their performance in both sports and education, and provide a fun experience that makes a lifelong impact on them.”
Nansel wants to make sure fans and coaches come away from an encounter with the Hawks with one lasting impression. “Win or lose, we’re going to do it with class.”