LeBaron Hollimon lives for soccer.
As a boy, he helped out with the Wichita Wings team and later played for Northwest High School and club teams. After playing for Eastern Illinois University, Hollimon played professionally, including seven years for his hometown team, the Wichita Wings.
Hollimon retired from professional soccer in 2001, but the sport continued to be a dominating influence in his life as he coached his son’s teams and officiated games.
“Ninety percent of the time our TV is on, it is on Fox Soccer channel,” he said.
So when Hollimon heard that the Wichita Wings professional indoor soccer franchise had been revived, the Mead Middle School assistant principal knew he had to throw his hat into the ring for the coach position.
Hollimon was thrilled to be announced as the new Wings coach and assistant general manager in May. Since then he has been busy signing players, planning the practice schedule, gathering equipment, ordering jerseys and planning photo shoots.
The Wings open their season at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday, November 3 at Hartman Arena against the Missouri Comets.
“It’s going to be like a party and a soccer game broke out,” Hollimon said. “Our style of play is going to be a high level of skill and high energy.”
Most of the team members have a year or more of professional indoor soccer experience. Among them are five local guys.
"I wanted to put an experienced team in place,” Holliman said. The “local flavor” is just an added bonus.
“Wichita is very fortunate that we’ve got some people we can do that with,” he said.
Hollimon views his playing history as another boon for the team. “I think having played at that level is important,” Holliman said.
Hollimon has been married to his wife, Annette, for 17 years. They met during college, where she played softball. They have a 15-year-old son, DeBray; a nine-year-old daughter, Dayza; and a 17-year-old godson, Kain, who lives in Oklahoma with his mother but whom the Hollimons very much consider part of their family.
After ending his playing career in 2001, Hollimon didn’t know what he was going to do. He had a biology degree, and his mother, a principal, let him know about a long-term substitute teaching opening for middle school science in USD 259. Hollimon found that he liked it and pursued his teaching certificate.
“I was just coaching science instead of soccer,” he said. Hollimon continued teaching while earning his master’s degree and then became assistant principal at Mead Middle School in 2007. All the while, he continued coaching and officiating soccer, including his son’s team.
Hollimon believes that so much time spent around middle schoolers can only help him as he transitions into his coaching role for the Wings. He certainly is more patient now.
“You’ve gotta be a mentor,” he said. “You’ve gotta be a motivator.”
And as Hollimon’s own son excels at soccer — playing for a Kansas City club that requires three weeknight practices per week plus games on the weekend — he is finding that his Wings schedule actually allows him a little more flexibility than he had as a school administrator. He and his wife coordinate a driving schedule for DeBray, who attends Wichita Northwest High School and does his homework on the drives to Kansas City.
“It’s a lot of windshield time,” Hollimon said. “It allows me to come up with game plans.”
After practice, the Hollimons turn right around and drive back to Wichita for school and work the next morning.
“His soccer is our life,” Hollimon said. “It’s an investment. There are no family vacations. … At the worst, he will get a college scholarship.”
So far, nine-year-old Dayza hasn’t gone quite as crazy for the sport that captivates her brother and father.
“She plays soccer, but she’s all diva,” Hollimon said. His personal life has long been about soccer, and now Hollimon’s professional life once again revolves around the sport.
“The Wings have a great legacy here,” Hollimon said. “What is really driving me right now is that they never won a championship — they never made it to the championship level.”