Kevin Heffernan barely had time to blink before he was hired for his first coaching job at Stevenson.
Twenty-three years ago, he interviewed to be the coach of the freshman boys B team. The team’s first game was that day. Sure enough, Heffernan was coaching players whose names he barely knew later that afternoon.
Since then, he’s been a fixture with the boys and girls soccer programs at Stevenson. When longtime girls varsity coach Mark Schartner resigned to lead the new Unified Soccer Program for students with disabilities and continue coaching the Stevenson boys, Heffernan interviewed for the girls varsity position.
This time, he wasn’t hired on the spot. But all that mattered to him was that he was chosen to lead the Patriots’ program in September. After dropping a 5-0 decision to New Trier in this year’s season opener, the Patriots bounced back March 20 with a 1-0 victory over Maine South to even their record at 1-1.
Previously, Heffernan was a head varsity coach at two high schools in Wisconsin.
While many assistants might have left Stevenson for another head coaching position, Heffernan was happy to stay with the Patriots for more than two decades.
“The administration always treated me well, and Mark [looked] at me like a head coach,” Heffernan said. “With that kind of loyalty, I didn’t feel like I needed [to leave] for a title of head coach. I love the kids and the school, and it’s [exciting] to continue to work with the same kids that I’ve coached for a number of years.”
“It’s been a great transition because he’s someone that we all trust,” senior co-captain Haley Green said.
Senior co-captain Carolyn Briggs said the players can have a dialogue with Heffernan.
“He’s willing to work with you,” Briggs said. “He knows his stuff, but he’s open to listening to everyone’s ideas.”
Heffernan’s assistant is Pepe Jon Chavez, who volunteered a season ago. The personalities of both coaches offer a nice contrast.
“Coach Heffernan is definitely more laid-back and Pepe Jon is almost the complete opposite,” senior co-captain Megan Petrick said. “They both work together very well.”
Chavez sometimes will bring his three young daughters to practice.
“It’s such a positive atmosphere,” Green said. “[The coaches] tie everything that we learn with life experiences, which makes it more enjoyable and meaningful.”
When Heffernan analyzes his team, he is excited by the myriad options he has, both in utilizing starters and bringing people off the bench.
“I’ve probably written 10 or 11 different lineups,” he said. “It’s a great group and we have such a variety of kids that can play multiple positions. Our versatility and flexibility is something that will help us throughout the season.”