By Brad Fauber
QUICKSBURG -- As Caleb Golladay reflects back on his first season as the head coach of Stonewall Jackson's boys soccer program, there is still a sense of disbelief that crosses his face.
For Golladay, everything that had transpired over the three-plus months of the 2013 high school soccer season seems almost surreal. The school record 24-game winning streak, the program's first-ever Region B title, the trip to Radford for the Group A state championship game -- Golladay didn't expect any of that. Not at his age. Not this early into his high school coaching career.
"It actually just hit me the other day ... that I'm 21 years old and I just coached in a state final soccer game. That's unreal," Golladay said.
The entire 2013 season presented so much to take in for Golladay, who is just three years removed from his own highly successful high school soccer career at Stonewall Jackson and is about to start his senior year at Eastern Mennonite University in the fall.
Golladay, The Northern Virginia Daily's 2013 Boys Soccer Coach of the Year, learned he was taking over as head coach of the Generals' program last fall after speaking several times with former head coach Nate Hissong and Stonewall Jackson athletic director Todd Fannin about the possibility.
It was a dream come true for Golladay, who had always known that he wanted to be a coach and an educator. But the reality of the situation didn't truly set in for Golladay until the Generals officially began practice in February.
"The first week of practice was the most stressful week of practice in my life, just because I had no clue how I was even going to do this," Golladay said.
The new coach soon began settling into his role, however, as Golladay drew upon what he learned from playing and assisting under Hissong for the last six seasons to help him conjure up a more structured practice plan.
Golladay said he struggled to match Hissong's ability to organize Stonewall Jackson's practices, but Golladay's philosophies and pre-match speeches were ripe with lessons that he had learned directly from Hissong.
"Just the way he ran things ... he was confident. He knew how he wanted to run things and he knew how to do it," Golladay said. "His coaching techniques were just something that I just kept trying to think about."
Golladay's transition from player to coach was aided by the fact that he inherited a team that was as skilled a soccer team as any Stonewall Jackson had ever had.
The Generals, coming off an appearance in the Region B quarterfinals the year before, returned a number of highly-skilled players such as Shenandoah District Player of the Year, Roberto Cardoso Jr., Juan Luna and David Dodson, and talk of returning to the state tournament for the first time since 2009 -- Golladay's junior year at Stonewall -- began before the season even began.
The level of returning talent was not lost on Golladay, who said his toughest job as a coach was figuring out how to make the team better than it already was.
"I'm not going to discredit myself any, but I walked into a program that was at its peak," Golladay said. "There was a lot that I had to do still. I still had to coach everything, I still had to practice. But I was left with a great soccer team, a great group of guys."
Stonewall Jackson certainly didn't disappoint, as the Generals finished the season 24-1 and claimed their fifth straight Shenandoah District regular season and tournament titles to go along with the program's first Region B championship. Stonewall's only loss came at the hands of George Mason, 2-1, in the state championship match on June 9.
While it's still too soon for Golladay to look ahead to next season, he already feels more comfortable heading into his second year because he has experienced just about everything that a high school soccer coach can expect to experience in any given season.
Golladay has already won a district championship. He won a regional title. He won two postseason matches in overtime -- one a 4-3 win over Clarke County in the regional quarterfinal round, the other a match won by penalty kicks against Radford in the state semifinals. And Golladay has coached in the season's biggest game, the state championship match.
"Just seeing the things that I was able to see and going through all of the stress and whatnot of games like that [against Radford], games like Clarke County, I think that helps me out for the future," Golladay said. "I've seen these things and I've gotten through them. It's like I know how to coach through adversity now.
"I know how to coach now."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org