By STEVE CORNELIUS, CJ Sports Editor
Steve Wallace has been a busy man this year.
He started out the year as an assistant Briar Jumper boys basketball coach. After that, he coached both the boys and girls varsity track teams in the spring. During the summer months, and into the fall season, he coached the Somerset boys varsity soccer team. And finally, he took to the basketball court again as the year ended, as the Lady Jumpers assistant basketball coach.
On top of being a full-time teacher at Somerset High School, Wallace’s extra-curricular coaching duties may seem like a busy year to most everyone else.
But for Steve Wallace, it was just a another normal year.
To date, Wallace has coached the Somerset boys soccer team for 9 years, he has coached the varsity track teams for 2 years, he has been an assistant boys basketball coach for 3 years, a girls assistant basketball coach for one year, has coached the Meece Middle School boys and girls soccer teams for 9 years, and has coached the Meece Middle School boys basketball teams for 9 years.
“I have always enjoyed the highs and lows associated with coaching student-athletes,” Wallace said. “It is such a high for me to see a young athlete progress or see a team progress. Then, if they get down you want to bring them back up. I love the everyday challenge of trying to make a team better than the other teams in the district or region. I just love coaching and I love the challenge of seeing what I can get out of the kids.”
Wallace did have great success as a coach in 2012 by leading his boys and girls track teams to two regional titles and two top-10 state meet finishes. Wallace has been named the Commonwealth Journal 2012 Coach of the Year also for his body of coaching work that spans over 18 years.
Throughout his coaching career, Wallace has gained local and statewide notoriety as a soccer coach, after leading his 2001 Somerset boys soccer team to a State Final Four appearance.
But this year, it was Wallace’s success in the sport of track and field that gained him statewide attention.
Over the past two years, Wallace has led both the Somerset girls and boys track teams to back-to-back regional titles.
With a small enrollment and plenty of other sports for students to choose from, Somerset’s track teams sometime struggle to get the talented Briar Jumper athletes out on the oval. But with Wallace’s full-time coaching record, the Somerset student-athletes flocked to the Joan Spurlock Track Complex to be a part of Wallace’s track program.
“A big reason we were so successful in track this year was because Coach (Robbie) Lucas was so easy to work with and he wanted his football players out on the track, and in years past that has not always been the case,” Wallace explained. “We had the numbers and the kids were able to compete against each other in practice, which in turn, prepared them for meet competition.”
“We have plenty of good athletes at Somerset, and they just need someone to motivate them to succeed,” Wallace added. “They need someone there everyday with a plan to make them get better, and that is where I stepped in. I don’t know all there is to know about track – or basketball or soccer, for that matter – but I have been successful because kids want to play hard, run hard and compete hard for me. I am tough on them, but in the end, they know I care about them.”
Not only did the Briar Jumper tracksters successfully defended their Class A Region 6 title, but they claimed 23 individual and relay regional gold medals and placed 7 athletes in the top 5 of state meet events – with two individual state champions.
And while Wallace made a big impact on the local track scene this past year, he has left a lasting legacy on the local soccer fields.
Wallace started coaching soccer in 1993 when he started the Southwestern High School boys soccer program. Wallace coached the Warriors soccer team for 3 years, before taking the boys soccer head coaching job at Somerset High School.
In no time, Wallace built the Briar Jumper boys soccer program to one of the best in the state. Wallace’s teams won 7 district tiles in the nine years he coached and claimed 3 regional titles.
In 1999, Wallace led the Briar Jumpers soccer team to a State Elite Eight appearance and led the 2001 team to a State Final Four appearance.
To this day, Wallace takes great pride in the accomplishments of that 2001 State Final Four team – which was recently inducted into the Somerset High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
The 2001 Somerset High School boys soccer team set a standard of excellence on the soccer field over a decade ago, and now many of those same young men are still making an impact on the soccer field today. From the 2001 Somerset boys soccer team, six of those former players are now head coaches and three are assistant coaches.
“Nine of those players from the 2001 Final Four team are now coaching soccer at the high school level,” Wallace vaunted. “I coach against them from Madison Southern to Lexington to Whitley County to Southwestern. To me that shows me that I was able to instill the passion and love for the game into these young men, and they want soccer to continue to be part of their lives.”
If you are an athlete at Somerset High School, chances are Steve Wallace will coach you somewhere along the way.
“Some of these kids at Somerset might play for me in two or three different sports in in a single school year,” Wallace chuckled. “The kids know that when they step on the soccer field or track, it is going to be all business. They know we are going to have a plan, and they know they might hear me yell and get after them. They know what I expect out of them at practice.”
“If the practice is two hours long, we are going to go hard for those two hours,” Wallace added. “Afterwards, we can cut up and laugh about it.”