Twenty years and counting
Kimamo Wahome grew up in a country he said treats soccer like football, baseball and basketball wrapped into one.
Since completing his own successful career as an academic All-American at UW-Eau Claire, assistant women’s soccer coach has strived to pass Kenya’s passion for the sport on to his players.
“I like to josh Americans and tell them I coach the real football … I think the fervor and passion soccer has in other countries is a lot like the Packers in Wisconsin,” Wahome said. “It’s in my DNA and I can’t help it.”
After two decades of working with the university’s team, that hasn’t gone unnoticed. In addition to women’s soccer, his outreach extends to the community as well.
Wahome mentors 73 economically disadvantaged student athletes from the Eau Claire community in a program called Upward Bound.
“We usually recruit these kids after middle school and try to retain them for four years through high school until graduation,” Wahome said. “It’s about providing personal career planning in a holistic setting just to boost their chances of making a successful transition to college.”
Coincidentally, many of the young men and women Wahome work with go on to attend Eau Claire and some even play on his soccer team.
As his involvement with Upward Bound suggests, he cares about more than simply teaching the game. Head coach Sean Yengo said Wahome takes measures to set his women in a position for prosperity.
“He wants our players to be successful,” Yengo said. “He’d love to see the team win a national championship, he’d love to see them win a conference championship, but I think most importantly he just wants to see them be successful in some way.”
Despite the high standard Wahome holds his players to, it doesn’t take long to see he jokes with them to keep the edge off.
Teighlor Tvedt, a junior midfielder for the Blugolds, said his lighthearted attitude helps keep the players engaged.
“Kimamo has a very educated sense of humor and uses that to tease us players,” Tvedt said. “In general he has a very playful personality — always teasing someone or challenging the team to beat him in PK’s.”
Whether he’s supporting players on the field or helping them deal with stress outside of their sport, Wahome is always looking to put his players first.
“He really does a great job creating a relationship with his players,” Tvedt said. “He is known to say ‘If you quit on soccer, you quit on life’.”
Wahome cites the Blugolds’ first conference championship in 2005 as the highlight of his career thus far, but he said what his players plan to do after they leave the team matters most for him.
“There’s probably not another assistant coach in all of Division III that means more to their soccer program than coach Wahome,” Yengo said. “He may have the title of assistant coach, but we all know how important he is to our program.”