Westmont’s Dave Wolf decides to make his 32nd season his last one as head men’s soccer coach, but is looking forward to his next chapter at the college
Dave Wolf has announced that the fall 2022 season will be his last as head coach of the Westmont men’s soccer team.
This coming fall will be his 32nd at the helm of a program that has known only four skippers in its 57-year history. Wolf has piloted the Warrior program through most of its existence, accumulating a record of 353-172-56 (.656).
“Dave Wolf has played a central role both as a men’s soccer coach and as an administrator in Westmont Athletics,” said Westmont Athletic Director Dave Odell. “I am so grateful for the impact he has had at Westmont for more than three decades, and I am thankful that he included me early in his decision making process.”
Anyone who knows Dave Wolf, knows that he does not make life-changing decisions without careful deliberation. In true “Wolfian” form, the beloved coach articulately shared not only his conclusions, but his thought process as well.
“Let me take you to the beginning of the thought process,” Wolf said over a cup of coffee. “There were two pieces that came together at the same time. One was reaching the 30-year mark. I think anytime we hit markers, we get a little bit introspective. I don’t know what is different between 29 and 30, but there is something about hitting those markers that gets us thinking thoughts about our tenures and our journey.
“The second piece was having Graeme Jorden and Jackson Wolf (Dave’s youngest son) in the incoming class (last fall). As I was thinking about the journey for me, this whole journey started with R.J. (Ryan Jorden, Gaeme’s father) as a first year student-athlete in the fall of ’91. It just started feeling to me like it had come full circle.”
The elder Jorden served as Wolf’s assistant coach for eight years and is currently the head men’s soccer coach at UCLA.
“That was the starting point of this conversation,” continued Wolf, “which actually began in the summertime. My first conversation with Dave Odell was back in June, and it was just letting him know how I was feeling and opening up the conversation. At that point, I felt like I wouldn’t be coaching beyond Graeme’s and Jackson’s four years at Westmont.”
“A couple of other pieces for me were, one — I have only ever been a head coach. It is all I have known. When you are the boss all the time, you are always the one making the final decisions, always the one carrying that responsibility and always the one wrestling with the results, long after others are. There is a toll. So that was definitely part of it.
“Along with that was the recognition that not every coaching career ends well. Not every coaching career ends on the terms the coach wants. I really wanted to finish well — wanted to finish feeling I still had something in the tank. I didn’t want to be bitter, and cynical and grumpy. That has not been my experience at Westmont, and I want the conclusion to be reflective of the experience overall. I know that coaches don’t usually get the opportunity to call the shots at the end.”
While Wolf is stepping aside as head coach, he is not leaving Westmont.
“I want to say that not only have I had an amazing experience in this role at Westmont, but Westmont has been amazing reciprocally in the conversation.”
Wolf said he was impressed by the response from Odell, the athletic director, and other staff members at Westmont.
“I am planning on expanding my teaching responsibilities,” Wolf said. “We are also talking about having a role in athletics. That is not clearly defined today, but we have batted around some ideas.
“I could not have asked for any more openness, support, creative thinking than I have received. Westmont has been nothing but 100% amazing in the conversation from day one, and I am so grateful,” Wolf said.
Wolf is not ruling out a return to coaching in the future.
“I am not entirely convinced that I am done coaching,” said Wolf. “What I am convinced of is that it is the time here at Westmont to hand the reins over to the next coach. I have developed a strong interest in the possibility of finishing my coaching career as an assistant. Where? I don’t know. What context? I don’t know. But, I am confident and at peace that my time as the head coach at Westmont is coming to a close.
“There is also a part of me considering making a commitment to staying away from coaching for the first year, just to experience life without it. I said to my team that, starting in the fall of 1978, as a freshman at Wheaton North High School, I have had 43 consecutive years of a fall season. I went from high school to college then right to the professional indoor circuit and never missed a fall. Then, right from the indoor circuit to Westmont in August of ’91.
“I am thinking (that) living life — experiencing life and trying to discern the Lord’s leading toward the next step — there has to be some space created for that. So I would imagine that I would try to steer clear of soccer for the 2023 calendar year, with the exception of being JJ’s dad and watching as many Westmont games as I can.”
Wolf also noted the importance of his current assistant coaches Johnny Whallon and Tovi Eliasen who joined the coaching staff in advance of the 2013 season.
“Prior to Johnny and Tovi’s arrival, I was very hands-on and wanted things done a particular way. So I did it myself to make sure it was done a particular way. With those guys coming on when they did, I slowly began the process of delegating more and handing more things over. Once my dear friend Rudy Ybarra joined five years ago, our staff was complete. That is one of the reasons I have been able to keep going.
“When they arrived, I was struggling. When you hit these markers, you begin asking, ‘How much longer do I want to do this or do I think I can do this?’ They have contributed a lot of help to my experience because of their expertise and their willingness to take on things.
“Our cohesion as a staff has been a real joy these last 10 years and is one of the reasons I feel like I still have something in the tank. I don’t want to crawl to the finish line. I want this last season to be a life-giving journey.
“I said to the team, ‘I am excited about spending these next 10 months with you. Let’s go for a great ride as we wrap this thing up.'”
Ron Smith is the sports information director at Westmont College.