Otter JV girls’ soccer coach takes over varsity reins

BRANDON — Otter Valley Union High School officials did not have to look far for a new varsity girls’ soccer coach this summer — they picked Rick Hedding, the JV girls’ soccer coach for the past four years, to take over from resigned former coach Dave Brown.
Hedding, a 47-year-old Florence resident, has almost a decade of coaching experience combined between Pittsford youth programs and the OV JV team, and has had two-soccer playing daughters at OV: Brianna Hedding, a defender, just graduated, and Alexis, a midfielder/forward, will be a junior third-year varsity player this fall.
Hedding, a park ranger supervisor for the state of Vermont, said that when he started coaching back in Pittsford he was probably “a typical parent-coach,” but that he soon discovered he had a passion for it.
“If I had things to do over again in life, I might want to be a teacher … I enjoy watching kids learn, and not just a sport, the life skills as well,” he said. “To teach not only the game, but those life skills, I very much enjoy doing that.”
Hedding has earned three coaching certifications, including one for goaltending, and said he is working on the next level overall certification.
“I’ve been actively trying to increase my skill level as a coach,” he said.
When Brown took over the varsity job in 2010, he recruited Hedding to take over the JV team.
“I slowly worked my way up through,” Hedding said. “I have just kind of kept trying to grow in the game of soccer.”
Hedding did not play soccer during his school years, although he played basketball and baseball. But he thinks soccer theory and practice has changed so much since his high school days that his lack of playing experience has not posed a challenge.
“I believe coaching the game has evolved a lot since I would have played 30 years ago,” he said, adding that he plans to stick with the OV program: “Hopefully, I can keep on getting experience at the varsity level.”
Hedding acknowledged he is inheriting a program that has not enjoyed tremendous success, at least not if measured strictly in terms of wins and losses: In the past four years, OV girls’ soccer has had good moments, but won a total of 11 games, with a high of four in 2012.
“This will be a long-term process,” he said.
However, Hedding believes some moves have been made that have already begun paying off for the program. Several players have begun playing indoor soccer over the winter in recent years, and for the past two years many members of the team have competed in a summer league with four other schools.
“You get touches on the ball and game-speed situations,” he said. “The girls we have been coming to that, we definitely see improvement.”
And the program’s summer camp, where Hedding said younger players can learn skills before they reach high school, is in its third year.
“That’s where it really starts, getting the kids some training early, so they feel comfortable on the ball,” he said.
As for the immediate future, the 2013 team lost nine athletes, most of them starters, to graduation. But Hedding said he is confident in his younger players and their offseason progress.
“We have some really good players that do possess those skills, and I think we will be competitive this year,” he said.  

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