As director of coaching for the Highlands Area Soccer Club, Jakub Kasprzyk is heavily involved with the area youth soccer scene.
He said he has gained an appreciation for the talent in place in the Highlands School District.
The Poland native, 39, now is looking forward to continuing to work with that talent as the new Highlands varsity boys soccer coach.
“I am very excited for this opportunity,” Kasprzyk said. “It is my first high school coaching position. I’ve done a lot of coaching in the past, but not at this level. I know it brings different challenges, but I look forward to it. I look forward to working with the players and the school to develop the whole program and not just working with this one group of boys. It is a long-term project with developing and holding onto that connection with the younger age groups in the communities.”
Kasprzyk’s love of soccer and his skill development began in his native Poland and moved to England. He played at the semi-pro level for several years in both countries while taking in all that would help him develop his coaching style.
“I started coaching in England, and I learned from different coaches different playing styles,” Kasprzyk said. “As you come across different exposures, some are positive and some are not so positive, but you can learn from each one. I have copied a number of those positive experiences into my coaching style.”
Kasprzyk first came to the U.S. for a few months at a time, starting in 2015, to coach soccer.
A couple of years later, he decided to become a permanent resident when he met his now-wife, Kristy, and eventually started a family. They have a 2-year-old son, William, and one on the way.
The Natrona Heights resident works as an insurance agent based in McCandless.
Kasprzyk, hired officially about a month ago, takes over for Jason Norris, who stepped down from the post after two seasons with the main hope of watching his sons play from a different perspective.
The Golden Rams came close to the playoffs in 2019, finishing just one point out of the final WPIAL playoff spot in the section standings.
Last year, Highlands finished 5-12 overall and 2-10 in a tough and competitive Section 1-3A.
Despite losing a number of seniors to graduation, including Valley News Dispatch all-star, All-WPIAL selection and Robert Morris University commit Gabe Norris, Kasprzyk said he’s looking forward to seeing what the returnees and younger players are able to do when they gather for preseason open workouts in a little over a week from now.
“We understand how the summer can be busy with work and kids going on family vacations,” Kasprzyk said. “We will have five good weeks of training before the start of preseason camp.”
Kasprzyk coached the Highlands club U19 boys team in the spring season with a number of the players who will populate the roster for the high school team in the fall.
“I know a number of the players and they know me and my coaching style,” Kasprzyk said. “I think that time together will really help as we get into the workouts in preparation for the season. Now, they know my expectations.”
Kasprzyk said excitement for this season extends to both the boys and girls teams moving their home games to the field turf of the high school stadium after several years on the adjacent grass field.
Official preseason practices begin Aug. 16 with the first regular-season games Sept. 3.
Both Highlands soccer teams are slated to begin the 2021 season Labor Day weekend by hosting respective kickoff tournaments at the stadium.
The Highlands boys will do battle again in Section 1-3A and will have home-and-home series against Armstrong, Freeport, Hampton, Indiana, Kiski Area, Knoch and Mars.
“We are very excited to have him be the new coach,” Highlands athletic director Drew Karpen said. “He has an extensive playing background internationally, and he has an extreme wealth of knowledge of the game as a player and a coach. He brings a different perspective for the kids. He and assistant Matt Skoda already are on a schedule of getting things started.”