By Moses Leos III
For Lehman High head boys soccer and cross-country coach Jay Sansom, developing players on and off the field means more than mere wins and losses.
It’s why Sansom earned three ‘district coach of the year’ honors, two at Lehman, one at Hays.
However, after 12 years in Hays CISD, Sansom is ready to take that expertise to another locale — New Braunfels Canyon. His departure marks the second head coaching vacancy at Lehman in the span of two weeks.
“[At Hays CISD], we developed kids that are really good players,” Sansom said. “But more importantly, they are doing good stuff outside of school. We are developing the young man part of it.”
Sansom will join the Canyon Cougars as an assistant to head boys soccer coach Robert Rush.
It was Rush who approached Sansom about the assistant coaching vacancies. Their matching philosophies of balancing athletics with academics led Sansom to make the move.
Sansom, who enters his 26th year of coaching next season, joined Hays High as an assistant soccer and cross-country coach in 2002. The Rebels claimed a district title during his three-year tenure.
He then moved across IH-35 to coach the Lehman boys soccer and team cross-country when the school opened in 2004.
Having coached at both schools, Sansom feels he bridged the competitive relationship between the Lehman and Hays soccer and cross-country programs. His friendship with current Hays soccer coach Jason Burnett and former cross-country coach Cliff Buckley didn’t hurt.
“Our kids would hang out together,” Sansom said. “It was kind of unusual, when you think about the rivalry that was built.”
But early on, times were tough for Sansom and the Lehman boys soccer program.
Only 16 players tried out for Lehman soccer that first year. The team played with only nine players on the pitch in certain games.
Things changed four years later. By that time, Lobo soccer started to become a formidable force in district. That momentum extended to the cross-country realm.
It allowed Lehman soccer to earn a playoff berth in 2008, where the Lobos took on a Vista Ridge squad that handed them a one-sided loss four years ago.
While the outcome didn’t change – Vista Ridge won – the flow of the game was much different. Lehman held firm despite 30-degree temperatures, stressing defensive prowess. It was a far cry from the first game, where Lehman conceded three goals in the first minute.
Lehman’s steady rise through the ranks drew praise from Vista Ridge players.
“After that match, one of the kids from Vista Ridge came out and complimented our seniors from where they were the first time we played, to that point,” Sansom said.
Lobo soccer hasn’t looked back ever since. Over the last few years, as many as 120 players have tried out to make the varsity program.
Last season saw Sansom lead Lehman soccer to the school’s first ever district title.
“Winning is the ultimate goal; getting into playoffs is the big picture,” Sansom said. “Winning district is the big part. It was huge for the school; setting the tone of the program.”
As Sansom leaves, he also looks back at the legacy left at Lehman, and what the Lobos will have as they take on the 6A ranks next year.
“It’s a strong program. We have some strong underclassmen that got tons of playing time,” Sansom said. “They work hard. We drive them to compete. In the offseason, they have that mentality to build what they need.”