Lacing up his cleats and falling into line with his players, OVS alum Hunter Helman stood at the center of a diamond-shaped soccer drill, patiently teaching players how to connect their passes, shoot accurately and execute plays.
The 2010 Upper Campus graduate was clearly at ease back on his old stomping grounds. But these days he is no longer taking instruction – he is giving it.
Helman, who started at OVS as a kindergartener and returned to the Upper Campus last year as a weekend supervisor and assistant soccer coach, took over the reins this year of the high school’s fall and winter soccer programs.
A star athlete during his time on both campuses, he spread his natural knack for leadership from football to soccer to baseball at the high school, earning the position of captain in all three sports.
But despite how comfortable he was as a player, he had to figure out how to adjust to his new role as coach.
“I was nervous,” Helman said about launching his coaching career. “I never coached in an official capacity before, but luckily I’ve had a great group to work with that has made it very enjoyable.”
Helman spent his years on the Upper Campus soccer team playing for Graham Smith, a former professional goalie, and Headmaster Carl Cooper. Now, six years later, Helman is coaching Smith’s son, Davis, who is captain of the team and a senior at OVS.
“I remember watching him practice and play when I was really little,” Davis said. “I think it’s pretty funny how my dad used to be his coach and now he is mine.”
The intergenerational connections don’t stop there.
Helman is also coaching the younger brother of one of his former teammates, 2009 graduate Parker Colobrn. Colborn and Helman were teammates for three years, and now Colborn’s brother, freshman Nolan Colborn, suits up for the OVS soccer team.
“Hunter was a student of the game and had a deep understanding of strategy,” the elder Colborn said. “He was a quiet leader who led by example and became the go-to when somebody needed to know about the complexities of the game. I think it is great that he is back at OVS. He has always had a natural ability to connect with soccer players and those who are passionate about the sport.”
Added Nolan Colborn: “I think it’s funny, my brother and Hunter used to talk about coaching but now Hunter is actually the coach. Knowing him the way I do and considering him more of a friend or family member more than a teacher, makes me want to make him proud.”
Upper Campus Head of School Carl Cooper remembers well Helman’s abilities.
As headmaster, Cooper saw the growth that Helman made in his years as a student at OVS, and remembers his talents as a player, where his willingness to learn, and his drive and natural ability, made him stand out on the field.
“The thing you remember about Hunter is the passion he had for the game,” Cooper said. “He played a lot of midfield. That meant that he was that link, holding everything together.”
Helman is still the link holding the team together.
Despite his young age, he has been able to connect with players and foster a more enjoyable environment in which players have been able to flourish.
In fact, his players say that it is because Helman is close to their age, and was once a student-athlete at OVS, that they feel a close connection to him.
“It’s easier to relate to him, especially with some of the newer styles of play and I think he brings that into the games and practices,” Captain Davis Smith said. “Socially, we are able to relate with him better, opposed to an older coach. He’s been in all of our shoes before. He knows what we need to know in order to succeed.”
As a first-year coach, Helman experienced plenty of success.
His players ended the winter season with multiple wins under their belts, but they learned much more than just how to play soccer. They learned to work as a team and support each other.
As the team prepared for one last game, this one against OVS alums, Helman pulled his boys together at a morning meeting and told them what the season meant to him.
“Thank you for awesome season and for making it memorable,” he told the young men. “I learned a lot. I hope you did too.”Share