By Brad Fauber
Caleb Golladay always knew he wanted to be a coach, but didn't expect the opportunity to present itself so soon.
When he heard that Nate Hissong was stepping down as head coach of the Stonewall Jackson boys varsity soccer program at the end of the 2012 season, he was quick to apply for the vacant position.
Now Golladay, just a junior at Eastern Mennonite University, finds himself as the head coach of the program. Golladay said he was shocked when he learned in early September that he was given the job.
"I wasn't expecting Hissong to leave as soon as he did. It's been a lifetime goal of mine to become a teacher and an educator," said Golladay during a recent phone interview. "[Coaching at Stonewall Jackson] is definitely something that I always thought about. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity as soon as it came."
That opportunity arrived barely two years after Golladay's career as a player for the Generals' soccer team ended.
Golladay played under Hissong at Stonewall Jackson for all four years of his high school career. Golladay was a member of the 2009 team that marched all the way to the state semifinals, and he was named first team All-Shenandoah District and second team All-Region B during his senior season in the spring of 2010.
Golladay led the Generals with 31 goals his senior year.
His familiarity with the Stonewall Jackson soccer program was a major reason that Golladay was awarded the job, according to athletic director Todd Fannin.
"He already knew the system and the tradition, but he also brings new excitement to the program," Fannin said. "It should tell you something that we have that much faith in him. Normally we won't turn the program over to just anybody, but he is the embodiment of that program.
"The bottom line is he has earned the respect he has been given."
Golladay's soccer career continued after his final match with the Generals ended, as he joined the varsity squad at EMU. He has been a consistent contributor as a defender for the Royals over the last three seasons.
He started 17 games in each of his first two years at EMU, and started all 20 of the Royals' games this past season.
Golladay said that his experience at the collegiate level will help him when he takes over his head coaching duties in the spring. He also took time after practices this past season to talk with Royals coach Roger Mast, who gave Golladay coaching advice and has been very supportive of his upcoming opportunity to coach his own team.
"It's definitely a different style of play -- college is a much faster game -- but I want to incorporate some of that into high school soccer," said Golladay. "The style of play will stay along the same lines, but I will definitely draw from my college experience."
Golladay finds himself in a unique position in that the college experience he will be drawing from is not yet complete. He said he is constantly asked how he plans to handle the challenges of taking college courses while coaching at Stonewall Jackson, but he doesn't expect it to be any more difficult than playing soccer while balancing class work during the fall college soccer season.
The talent level that returns from last year's Stonewall Jackson team will also make Golladay's job much easier, and he is expecting a smooth transition into his newly-acquired role.
Stonewall Jackson lost just four seniors to graduation from last year's team that advanced to the Region B quarterfinals. The Generals' top two scorers from last season, junior Roberto Cardoso and senior David Dodson, both return, and senior Juan Luna -- with whom Golladay actually played during his time at Stonewall Jackson -- is back after missing last season.
"They will definitely help me out as a coach. The guys have experience and know the game well," said Golladay. "I think we can only get better and we can learn from each other. I can learn from the players about how to be a better coach, and I can teach them how to become better players."
Golladay said the team will have a formal meeting sometime in the next few weeks, but he has already received text messages and emails from players expressing their excitement for the coming season.
Stonewall Jackson hasn't lost a regular-season district match in four years, and Golladay and the Generals will certainly look to continue that streak when the soccer season kicks off in the spring. The Generals will also have their eye on a possible return to the state tournament after getting bounced in the first round of regionals in each of the last three seasons.
Golladay expects the Generals to have another solid campaign in 2013, but he said the overall success of his first season at the helm of his alma mater wouldn't necessarily be confined solely to what Stonewall Jackson does on the pitch.
"I hope to share my experience and give all of my athletes a chance to be a better player. I want to help all of my players grow, both as athletes and as people," said Golladay. "For them it could be going far in the [state] tournament, but for me, just to see players grow daily as athletes and as people would be a successful season."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org