Westwood is welcoming a new head boys' soccer coach, Stefano Salerno, who coached at A&M Consolidated High School for nine years. At Consol, he finished with an overall winning record of 100-30-14. However, it was for personal reasons that he moved to Austin.
"I was lucky enough to meet a beautiful lady, so her family lives in Round Rock, and after I had been at Consol for nine years and the head coach for six years, we decided it was time to move closer to family. So I took the leap," Coach Salerno said. "I already bought a house in Leander, but then Westwood called, and when Westwood calls, you answer that phone. I was very lucky because I interviewed and got the job here, so I'm very excited about that."
Coach Salerno, who began his career at Consol as a tennis coach, knew he wanted to join the Westwood athletics staff because of the values he's seen while competing against both the Warrior soccer and tennis teams in previous years.
"When I coached against Westwood, whether this was tennis or soccer, you could always see that there was that respect," Coach Salerno said. "So in the end, when Coach Wood called me and offered me the job, it was a very easy decision. I know the previous head coach, Coach Duhon, we coached against each other for a very long time. He spoke very highly about this school, this administration, the teachers, the kids, so this decision was very easy even though I had just bought a house in Leander."
Although the 2019 spring soccer season is still months away, Coach Salerno has many goals for the team. After an exciting 2018 season in which the team made it to the playoffs, he will be challenged to maintain the positive momentum.
"So now my goal — I guess the first one and most important one — is to make sure that the guys are respectful before we even talk about soccer, making sure that they're doing well in school, making sure that they're having fun playing the game and then everything else will come by itself," Coach Salerno said. "If we're talking about winning, I know in all these years Westwood has been around (since the 80s) Westwood has won eight district trophies, so I'm hoping to add a lot more."
Coach Salerno is also thinking about his goals for future years and the entire Westwood boys' soccer program.
"I think it's just establishing a culture where winning is the norm. Typically that comes with time. At Consol, it took us two years to win the first district championship but then we won four in a row. I'm assuming having spoken to the guys and knowing that we're going to have really good competition," Coach Salerno said. "I think it needs to be a transition for us to kind of gel and bond, and long term goals is what I've told a number of coaches already: I want teams to know they're going to get a solid game every single time they play Westwood, so I want teams to fear playing us."
Coach Salerno's favorite part about coaching is the time spent with his players and how he can help them.
"It's the connection [with the kids]; those five minutes before kickoff just the excitement, a bit of nervousness, but just knowing that you can put all of the stress on your shoulders and not on the kids' shoulders it's just, it's good," Mr. Salerno said.
In addition to being head soccer coach, Coach Salerno will be teaching English I classes as well as Practical Writing. Even though the workload and new environment may seem like a lot, he's up for the challenge.
"I think it's getting to experience the unknown because I'm teaching Freshman English for the first time, I've been teaching Sophomore English for nine years and it's getting to know the kids; everyone is starting off from scratch pretty much, and myself included, so I'm just excited. I like adventure, I just like something that's new, something that's going to be challenging," Coach Salerno said.
In the classroom, Coach Salerno's goal is to help his students develop the skills and knowledge needed in preparation for their plans after high school.
"When it comes to philosophies, I would say the most important thing for me is building relationships. I think that we just mentioned reading and writing, but my theme for the year is always growth because my focus is growing the individual. So it's not just growing a reader or growing a writer, but it's growing the individual, and just making sure that once they leave high school, then they're ready to go either into the workforce, or go to college and be successful or whatever their life provides them," Coach Salerno said.
Ultimately, Coach Salerno's philosophy is driven by his desire to help kids achieve success both on the field and in the classroom.
"I don't really differentiate between what happens in the classroom or on the soccer field. I think they're extremely similar; I can't make kids run in the classroom, that's the only difference, but I think they're very similar in what they're trying to teach the kids."
Coach Salerno will begin coaching the boys during the fall off-season with the regular season starting in the new year.