The wins keep coming for Corey Oakland, even though the girls soccer season ended two months ago.
Oakland, who guided the Prairie School girls to the WIAA Division 4 state championship in June, has been named the small school coach of the year by the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association.
This spring, Oakland led the Hawks to a 18-3-2 record and their second gold ball in the past four seasons.
It’s the third WSCA coach of the year award for Oakland, who also coaches the Prairie boys team. He earned the private school boys award in 2010 and the small school girls award in 2016.
“Corey’s knowledge of the game and his ability to teach our boys and girls soccer players is truly remarkable,” said Prairie Athletic Director Jason Atanasoff. “Coaching is teaching, and the way he gets our athletes to buy in and understand what the team needs from each individual is not an easy thing to do.
“While there is no doubt our girls were super-talented this past spring and the team depth was as good as I’ve seen, Corey found a way to keep it fun for the girls and not to put any unnecessary pressure on them,” Atanasoff added. “Those girls had a blast spending every day together. The gold ball was simply the icing on the cake and Corey and his staff deserve quite a bit of credit for that. Corey is the first to give the girls all the credit for their victories, but those girls know they played for as good of a coach as this fine state has to offer at the high school level, regardless of sport.”
One of the best of Oakland’s players agreed.
“Corey is amazing,” said Prairie senior Cate Patterson, who was voted the All-County Player of the Year, in the spring. “I’ve never played for a coach who’s given me so much confidence on the field.”
Oakland, who is uncomfortable talking about himself, said he believes that coaching awards actually recognize great players and great assistant coaches.
“As I always tell people, I’m simply fortunate to coach some great kids,” Oakland said. “I always look at awards like this as team honors. If you have a team of talented players and have a successful season—as usually judged by winning a state championship—individual coaching awards can sometimes follow.”
Oakland also credited the work of assistants Jason Lees and John Salazar, who have been with him for two of his three coaching awards.
“Regarding this year’s team, there was a lot more trust and maybe a little less ‘coaching’ when you know the girls are fully capable of seeing and figuring it out on their own,” Oakland said. “This team had the talent. My goal and hope was to simply take some pressure away and make sure we playing well when it mattered—at the end of the year.”
Oakland also said most coaches would admit that their best efforts usually come in seasons without championships or individual awards.
The Prairie girls team was ranked No. 1 in the state at the end of the regular season in 2016, 2017 and 2019, and won the state title in 2016 and 2019. But it’s the 2018 season—when the Hawks dropped to 8-12—that Oakland called upon all his skills.
“You really had to search for those intangibles that make a team click,” Oakland said of 2018. “That season was a ton of fun despite the mixed results, and certainly required a lot more creativity and patience.”