Kyle Kokkonen has his dream job.
The Stonewall Jackson 2012 graduate was named the new head football coach at the Shenandoah County School Board meeting on Thursday night. Kokkonen has been the junior varsity head football coach for the past three years.
“I love Stonewall,” Kokkonen said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “I went to Stonewall. My parents went to Stonewall. I love it here. As far as the kids, being the JV coach for a while I really love the kids we have here. I really feel like we have a really strong group. It’s been really exciting to kind of take that on.”
Stonewall Jackson also hired Wendy Poole as the new volleyball head coach on Thursday night.
Stonewall Jackson Athletic Director Mike Lenox said that Kokkonen is a great fit for the football job.
“I like his overall rapport with the kids,” Lenox said. “He does a really good job working with them, having them respect him, listen to him, the discipline he instills in them. He does a really good job with that on the JV team. And that’s really important to me and for the football program to have that. I think that’s something that can’t be really taught or instructed. You kind of have to be that way and I think that he has that quality about him.
Kokkonen replaces Pete Lampman, who resigned as head football coach on Dec. 12. Lampman was at the helm for three seasons and the Generals were 2-30 during his time as head coach.
Last season the Generals were 2-8 and snapped a 41-game losing streak with a 31-0 victory over Rappahannock County on Sept. 27. The Generals defeated Madison County, 30-27, two weeks later. The Generals will lose 10 players to graduation this year.
Kokkonen said that his first big goal is to change the culture of the football program.
“I think for us the biggest thing is setting a culture of discipline first and working through that and what that means for our kids,” he said. “If we really focus on making better men while they’re here and put that first and foremost then some of the other stuff we can get there as we get there. It will take care of itself if we take care of that first part.”
Kokkonen, who is an 11th grade English teacher at Stonewall Jackson, said he met with the team for a little bit on Friday morning and he feels like they are happy to have him as coach. He said it helps that he has coached most of them at the junior varsity level.
“I feel comfortable with the kids,” Kokkonen said. “And I think most of them feel comfortable with me, which I think really helps going forward. They have a basic understanding of what I’m going to expect. But now that there’s more control over what we’re doing as an entire program I don’t think there will be any kids surprised or shocked by anything, which is nice.”
The Generals ran the triple-option offense for most of the past two seasons, before switching to a power-I formation late last season. Kokkonen said he and his assistant coaches are still working through what kind of offense they want to run, so he wasn’t sure what offense they will use next season.
Poole takes over for Lindsey Dinges, who resigned at the end of this past season. Poole has been a head coach before. Lenox said she was a coach at Central for a year. Lenox said he was impressed with Poole when she interviewed for the job.
“She has experience,” Lenox said. “And her overall passion and excitement that she brought and willingness to work and understanding of where the program is and my view of it where it needs to be -- we were on the same page with that.”
Stonewall Jackson’s volleyball program didn’t win a match last season and won only three sets total. The Generals have won only two matches in the last four years.
Lenox said he believes Poole, a Central graduate, can help turn things around.
“I’m excited about Wendy as well,” Lenox said. “I think she’s going to be a great asset to us. She’s very excited about the opportunity to hopefully bring volleyball back to competitive ways.”
Kokkonen was coached in high school by longtime Stonewall Jackson head coach Dick Krol, who passed away last fall. Kokkonen said he wants the program to get back to instilling some of the things that Krol did when he was coach.
Kokkonen said Krol made really strong men who were prepared to handle anything that came after high school. "And if you’re successful in that, then the parallel to making successful football players is not that hard.”