GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - When Green Bay men's soccer head coach Kris Kelderman was offered and accepted the position as the eighth head coach of the Phoenix soccer program, the first phone call he made was to his father, Harry.
"When I told him I had accepted the job he said, 'awesome, well deserved'," said Kris.
Harry has coached soccer at Neenah High School for the past 31 years and he has led the Rockets to 15 state tournament appearances and three Division I state championships. With good reason, it comes as no surprise that after his son Kris called to tell him he had been hired just 50 miles away, Harry was elated.
"It's unique because he's been gone for 20 years being involved in the game and the opportunity to bring him and his kids home and get a chance to know each other a little more, that in itself is immense for me," Harry said.
Besides spending one season as the JV coach in the early 90s at Neenah High School while playing professionally at the Milwaukee Wave, this is Kris' first time coaching in his home state of Wisconsin.
"It is such a thrill to be back here in my home state doing something I'm extremely passionate about at the college level," Kris said. "The best part is that I get to do it among family and friends which is great for support. I don't know what else a coach could ask for."
Though Harry's daughter Jill assists at the family-run business, Soccer Locker in Neenah, this season is the first time the Kelderman family has been together in 20 years as Kris' career has taken him to various places such as Kansas City, Washington, D.C., New England, New York and most recently Virginia, to name a few.
"We got to chat quite a bit on the phone, but we rarely got together socially," said Harry. "Just having him as close as he is to home is very unique in itself. We are certainly glad he came."
Not only is Kris and his family thrilled to have him coaching in his home state, so are players like senior captain Stuart Grable who was coached by Harry at Neenah High School and now coached by Kris.
"I can definitely see similarities between both Harry and Kris," Grable said. "They are both so passionate about the game and I can also see similarities in their philosophies."
It is safe to say that similar philosophies lead to similar success. In this week's NSCAA National Regional Rankings Green Bay (3-2-1) is receiving votes while Neenah (12-3-0) is ranked No. 14 in the Region 6 poll and No. 4 in the weekly Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association (WSCA) poll. It is the first appearance this season for the Phoenix in the poll while Neenah has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the WSCA poll. In addition, both Harry and Kris are members of the Wisconsin Adult Soccer Association Hall of Fame. Harry was inducted in 1996 while his son Kris in 2010.
No matter what the distance, 50 miles or 500 miles, the relationship remains the same as both seek insight from one another regarding their respective programs.
"He'll ask me what I think of his ideas and team and I'll ask him what I should do in certain situations with my high school team. I probably ask more of him than he asks of me, but that's the way it should be," said Harry laughing.
"On the way home from games we always talk on the phone and bounce ideas off each other," Kris said.
Both also agreed they watch each other's games as a coach rather than a fan with Kris receiving an added bonus.
"I'm an alum of Neenah so I'm cheering for the team but at the same time I'm able to watch as a coach and look at a couple of players for recruiting purposes so it's a win win for me going to games," said Kris.
"I watch his team as a coach rather than a parent, and I like that he asks my opinion afterwards," said Harry. "He finally has the opportunity to run his own show. I don't think there will be anybody that will work any harder at it and he will never give up on it."
When both were asked who would win if coaching against each other:
"I would win in the second overtime only because I'm younger," Kris said laughing.
"He would. He's much more knowledgeable than I am in today's game," Harry said laughing without hesitation.