As Lancaster Country Day steps into a new era as one of the newest members of the Lancaster-Lebanon League, a face familiar to the league and the local soccer scene has been selected to guide the Cougar boys from the sidelines.
Chris Wilson, a longtime assistant at Hempfield, with coaching experience on the club and college levels, was hired in late June to head the boys soccer program, succeeding Dale Mylin, who stepped down after three decades at the helm.
"It's an exciting time, obviously, for Country Day," Wilson said over the phone Friday. "It's kind of like their coming out party. They're stepping up to the big league, and they're anxious to get going."
While the Cougars prepare to embark on their first campaign in the L-L League, Wilson's familiarity with the league dates back to his own high school playing days. He was an L-L all-star with Donegal as a member of the Class of 1989. He teamed up with Hempfield head coach Mark Ashley in 2008, joining the Black Knights as an assistant and helping the team win the 2010 PIAA Class 3A title. Two of Wilson's sons, Ryan and Zach, played for Hempfield, where Wilson also teaches health and physical education.
When parents notified him that the L-L League-bound Cougars needed a head coach, Wilson felt a sense of comparability.
"This was a good opportunity for me to come be in the L-L League (as a head coach)," he said. "I know a lot of the coaches here, and I know the league well. It just seemed like a good fit."
LCDS Athletics is proud to name Chris Wilson as the Boys Varsity Soccer Head Coach for the upcoming fall season! We are excited to have Coach Wilson lead the Cougars into @LancLebLeague competition! #GoCougars #CougarPride— LCDS Athletics (@LCDSsports) June 22, 2018
Mylin coached the Cougars for more than 500 games and 300 victories, guiding the program to the District Three title game in 2013 and PIAA appearances in three of the last five years. Country Day finished last season 15-4-1, advancing to the district playoffs before a loss to Lancaster County Christian in the district quarterfinals.
"Obviously, the standard and the bar is really high," Wilson said of the Cougars' pedigree, "and that's good."
Wilson's agenda in the weeks leading up to the official start of the preseason Aug. 13 includes meeting his players and developing a workout schedule.
"I haven't seen the boys play," he said. "I really don't know what we're going to have. I've got to see what pieces we have to put together and what younger players we have coming up to help us."
With the addition of Country Day and Octorara, the L-L League expanded its boys soccer configuration from three sections to four for the 2018 season. As a member of Section Four, the Cougars find themselves in a division lineup that includes, among others, Pequea Valley and Lancaster Catholic, whom Lancaster Country Day hosts in a section opener scheduled for Sept. 5.
"There are going to be some tough games," Wilson said. "There are going to be some tough nights, but they'll build character."
Beyond his high school duties, Wilson's career included extensive international internship experience with Brazil, the Netherlands, Germany, Mexico, Spain and Italy. He served as a coach and the boys soccer director with Penn Legacy before coaching for the PA Classics and the Olympic Development Program for Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer. At the college level, he served as an assistant at Penn State Harrisburg with head-coaching stints at Elizabethtown and Alvernia. He brings that experience with him to the sidelines at Lancaster Country Day, where he plans to lead the Cougars into a new era.
"We need to set expectations at an appropriate level," Wilson said. "We need to understand that the competition level is certainly going to be different, and we just need to set our expectations and our bar accordingly. We want to come in and be successful and compete, and we're going to need to develop players to the best of their abilities and go from there."