Watson steps into new role as head varsity girls soccer coach 


Ethan Swift

During a practice before the cancellation of their season last spring, current senior Amelia Mitchell scoops up a ball while playing goalkeeper in a scrimmage.

Maya Waid, Editor-in-Chief

Despite all of the uncertainties that COVID-19 had presented to the HHS community and its students, one thing that Athletic Director Brandon Burley is excited about is the new girls varsity soccer coach, Kelsey Watson. After growing up in the area, Watson is excited about the opportunity to return to coach one of her former rival schools. 

“I grew up in Broadway and played at Broadway High School. When I was at Broadway back then, Harrisonburg was the team to beat. When I saw that there was an opening to coach at Harrisonburg, I knew I wanted to go to states so I wanted to be at HHS. I jumped right on the opportunity to coach because, coming from this area, I know what Harrisonburg can do,” Watson said. 

After conducting an interview process via Zoom, Burley and HHS Principal Melissa Hensley came to the conclusion that Watson was the best fit for the team’s needs. 

“Coach Watson’s approach to coaching aligns with the culture we are working to create, not only within our athletic programs, but also our school and community,” Burley said. 

Since Watson knows little about the team in recent years, she is planning on using off-season workouts as an opportunity to get a feel for the team and help them set goals. 

“The only thing I know about in recent years is [that] the last time Harrisonburg went to districts they tied with Broadway, so coming from Broadway I know what they can do and I know what I can do with Harrisonburg, so I am ready. I am all about trying to get to the next level with them, it is going to take a lot of team chemistry and relationship building just because it is my first year with them, but I know we can do it.”

As the former JV coach at John R. Lewis High School in Northern Virginia, Watson is familiar with the devastation that athletes faced last spring when their season was canceled due to COVID-19. Knowing this, Watson is grateful for the opportunity to get to play in the upcoming season. 

“I coached last year in Fairfax. so my season also got canceled. I understand that disappointment with not getting to play the rest of the season, so I know the girls are just grateful to get to have a season this year,” Watson said. “I am really looking forward to getting things rolling and being able to have somewhat of a normality again and enjoying the game. I think we all know that it is devastating when that is what you are passionate about and you can’t do it.”

Since this will be her first season with the HHS soccer program, Watson acknowledges that it will take some time to get her feet on the ground before getting things going. Watson plans to encourage team goal-setting so her and her players are working toward a common goal. 

“My plan is to really start setting goals once I get a feel for the team. I think that it is important because the team is part of that goal setting process, I really need them to buy into the goals that we make. I am hesitant to make a lot of goals before I sit down and talk to them, but my goal is for us to improve. [I also want] to really build some team chemistry, especially since they didn’t finish their season last year with COVID, so building relationships and making sure that we know each other and what we can do on the field together [is important],” Watson said. “My focus is going to be getting our feet on the ground this year and building that solid foundation so future years are prepared. I definitely want to get some goals set in stone, but I want their input on what they want to accomplish as well.”

After having many coaches over the past few seasons for the team, Watson is confident that she will be able to develop the team for the years to come. 

“I understand the [need for stability]. Having grown up in this area and having left and coming back, I am planning on instilling my roots here. I just got married in 2019 and had my first son who is now 11 months old. My husband and I are not looking to go anywhere, we are looking to stay here. I think that because we are in that stage of life where we are now married with a kid, we are trying to set roots here so people know we are living here and planning on staying here,” Watson said. 

Even though there are still many unknowns going into the 2021 soccer season, Watson is extremely grateful for the opportunity to coach and share her knowledge with the team.

“I am super grateful that we get a season this year with all of the COVID stuff going on. I really do want it to be a season where we take every opportunity we get and turn every loss into a success and every downward spiral into an upward wind. I think that just being given this chance and knowing how life can be so short and how things can be taken away from us so quickly it really should help us have a powerful season,” Watson said. “I think the girls are going to take each practice and each game as they get it and play their hearts out because they don’t know if another pandemic will happen. That’s what I am all about this year, taking every opportunity.”