Mike Lockhart recently relinquished his role as Walker High’s girls soccer coach, but only because he felt that it was time to.
After two seasons into his second stint in charge of the Lady Cats’ program, Lockhart decided to pass the torch to assistant Brenna Perez.
“I said from Day 1 in 2011 when I stepped in, and didn’t know anything about soccer, that I would love to find somebody who had a soccer background and preferably played soccer,” Lockhart said. “But you always try to leave something better than you found it, and I think when I came there in 2011 the Walker girls’ soccer program, it wasn’t really a program. Obviously, we would have liked to have done more, but I think (Perez) will do an outstanding job.”
After health problems kept him off the sideline for a part of the 2018-19 season, Lockhart felt that it was time to step aside.
Lockhart, who primarily had a basketball background, stepped into coach the school’s soccer program in 2012 when his daughter’s team was without a coach. He stepped away from the program for a few years, but returned in 2017 following a 1-17-1 season.
Lockhart said his intentions were never to coach the program long-term, but instead wanted to lay the foundation for success until a suitable candidate could be hired.
Given the dire straits the program fell into before his return to Walker, it’s hard to argue with Lockhart’s results.
The Lady Cats narrowly missed the playoffs in ’18-19, finishing with a power ranking of No. 26 after a 9-9-1 season in which they started out strong before going 1-3 in district play.
The year before the Lady Cats finished (11-8-3, 1-4) narrowly missing the playoffs as a bubble team.
“For me, I felt like we really turned it around,” Lockhart said. “We never had a losing season, we went to the playoffs three times, we qualified another time, and we helped some kids go on and play at the next level. I thought we made it relevant. We’ve left the program in a good financial position. I thought we really went from having a team to having a program.”
Perez became an assistant in November, coming from a coaching position at Episcopal. She began teaching at Walker in the spring and for Lockhart it provided what he believed to be the kind of seamless transition he was looking for.
“Coach Perez is going to do an outstanding job,” he said. “She played college soccer and relates well to the girls. I think it’s going to be a great thing. I think she’ll do an outstanding job; I truly do. I have no doubt about that.”