Prairie Ridge entered the season with five returning players from 2017. There were a lot of unknowns for head coach Andre Watson.
Even so, the Wolves won their first 17 games, a Fox Valley Conference title and a Class 2A regional championship. The win streak came to an end with a loss to Burlington Central in the sectional semifinals.
For all the Wolves’ success, Watson earned the 2018 Northwest Herald Girls Soccer Coach of the Year award.
Watson is leaving Prairie Ridge to become the men’s soccer coach at Harper College next season. In his three seasons at Prairie Ridge, the Wolves went 49-10-1, winning three regional titles and a sectional title.
Watson recently spoke with the Northwest Herald about the season, his coaching influences and pet peeves.
What are you going to remember most about this season?
Watson: I’m going to remember that we started the season with a lot of uncertainty. We had 14 new players on the team. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I knew we had a talented group, but I had no idea where everyone was going to play and how they were going to fit.
Lots of times I see where we’re going to put the players as a puzzle. You’ve got to see what piece goes where and which player works the best in different positions. There was a lot of us moving players around during the course of the season until we found something that worked.
Do you have a favorite game?
Watson: My favorite game would have been Cary-Grove. They had a phenomenal team this year. We went down, 1-0, it was the first goal that we gave up [all season]. What was going to be our response when we give up that first goal after five shutouts? We ended up winning, 4-1. That was a great result for us.
Who are your biggest coaching influences?
Watson: Paul Keenan, who had coached at St. Charles East during the '90s. Dave Quinn, who has worked with the Chicago Fire and the Chicago Red Stars in an administrative role. Those were two of my high school coaches [at Niles Notre Dame].
Pete Ternes. I was his assistant at Lake Zurich for seven years. He was a big influence on me. [Former Prairie Ridge boys coach and current Jacobs coach] Colin Brice. I picked up a lot from him. It’s important that every coach you’re with, you pick up something.
Do you have any coaching pet peeves?
Watson: My biggest coaching pet peeve – and the girls know this – is when you hit a corner kick out of bounds. I always tell the girls, you literally have the entire field to kick it into.
And a lot of players get used to playing one position. So if they’re a defender and you say, ‘Can you go play forward for a bit?’ they look at you like you’re crazy. One of the things I try to teach the girls is that when I ask you to play a different position, your answer is: ‘Yes.’
Do you have any hobbies?
Watson: I enjoy traveling. I love movies and TV, reading magazines. I love spending time with my [two] boys.
What are three of your favorite movies?
Watson: “Dances with Wolves,” “Heat,” and “Dazed and Confused.”
Did the team give you any nicknames?
Watson: I get called Dre sometimes, or Dr. Dre.
Are you superstitious at all?
Watson: I always wear PR gear, top to bottom. One of the girls asked me during the season if I wear anything other than PR clothes. I said, ‘No, I actually don’t.’ Even practices.
Do you have any hidden talents?
Watson: I play the drums and I’m double-jointed.