Meadowdale High School’s new football coach is eager to get started.
Matt Leonard was officially named head coach for the Mavericks this week and he came away impressed after meeting with his players.
“They were very enthusiastic. They’re energetic,” said Leonard, who was head coach at Foster High School in Tukwila the last two years. “They’re very hungry to get to work. I was really impressed with the way they carried themselves.”
Former coach Mike Don resigned to take a position at Eastmont High School in Wenatchee.
Leonard’s hiring this week means that he’ll be coaching the team during spring football practices later this month before taking the squad to the Gridiron of Champions camp at Evergreen State College next month.
The vision that Leonard has for the Meadowdale football program focuses on developing athletes with great character, he said. In his interview for the position, Leonard said he thought school representatives saw “my vision of the program, not just winning games on Friday night but being involved in the community.”
Leonard said he could see himself being at the school for the next 20 to 25 years, raising a family and buying a house in the community.
Last year, Foster advanced to the playoffs for the first time but what Leonard said he is most proud of are improving the academic performance of the team, changing the culture at a school that hadn’t experienced a lot of success and involving the players in the community.
Though it was difficult to leave Foster, Leonard was eager to move back closer to his family. Leonard went to Bothell High School and his father Al, who will be joining the Meadowdale staff, was a long-time assistant coach at Bothell.
“I’m from the north end. My family is up here,” Leonard said. “It was a huge draw to be back with my family.”
Leonard, 31, is one of 10 children. Leonard wasn’t able to convince his father to join him at Foster because of the commute. This time the elder Leonard didn’t say no.
The opportunity to coach with his son was an offer the elder Leonard could not pass up.
For the younger Leonard, the chance to take over a successful but not well-known program also was appealing.
“State playoffs five straight years. Quarterfinals. It kind of goes unnoticed,” Leonard said. “I was really drawn to the junior and middle school feeder programs, the booster club. It’s a great conference. … They are used to winning, competing and being very good.”
Leonard started his coaching career as an assistant at Bothell and then spent two years as an assistant at Interlake. He was head coach at Foster for two years. In addition to football, Leonard also has coached wrestling and baseball.
At Foster, Leonard taught English and social studies. A teaching assignment has not yet been finalized but Leonard certainly hopes to be in the building.
Leonard plans to bring an up-tempo, University of Oregon type of offense to Meadowdale. Expect a no-huddle, spread offense with receivers making big plays down the field.
Most players like the offense. “Their eyes light up,” Leonard said.
The emphasis, he added, is on the quarterback making good decisions and being a dual option.
“We’ve had great success. It’s letting the kids have fun. They love it,” Leonard said. “I’m very excited to get going and continue the success and hopefully take the program to the next level. That’s what I came here to do.”
– By David Pan