By Jeff Helfrich/NPSL.com
Chad Rakestraw found out about the inception of the Denton Diablos on Twitter. Within weeks, he was named head coach of the new NPSL squad.
Rakestraw knew Damon Gochneaur, one of the Diablos owners, from community connections. Shortly after the announcement of the team, Gochneaur reached out to Rakestraw about the position. After being put on a shortlist and meeting with the ownership, Rakestraw was named head coach in Denton, the town he graduated high school in.
“To have something that’s in the town I spent my high school years is really cool,” Rakestraw said. “Not only for me, but also for the town. I think it’s a great opportunity for Denton. I think it’s a great place that I think is going to really embrace soccer at a high level. To be honest, I wish I would’ve dreamed that big, but I would say it’s a bigger opportunity than I ever imagined I and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of it.”
Rakestraw’s experience runs deep in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in Texas. He’s the current head coach of Flower Mound Marcus High School in southern Denton County. He’s made stops at Denton Guyer, Northwest and Coppell High School, where he won 6A State championships in 2013 and 2016.
He also has bona fides on the pitch as a player. He attended Midwestern State University on a soccer scholarship and received all-conference honors and served as a team captain during his senior season. He knows the college game well and has sent over 25 high school players to the next level as a coach. Experience like this will be crucial as Rakestraw recruits for the Diablos.
“I definitely have a good solid group of guys that I have relationships with that are maybe former pros or college players right now or guys that have just graduated that are kind of penciled in,” Rakestraw said. “I think it’s going to be a real high percentage of guys that are within the area. I would say right now that nine out of 10 guys are going to be probably from the area.”
The DFW area is a unique one as far as sports and soccer. A densely-populated metropolitan area that prides itself on sports could be fruitful for the Diablos. Football is king in Texas, but that may be shifting. The Hispanic influence in Texas contributes to the well-being and growth of soccer as well. There’s a reason Rakestraw believes in the area’s potential.
“I think it’s culture,” Rakestraw said. “Obviously the Hispanic influence that’s in Texas is huge with just the nature in which they love soccer, play soccer, it’s familial and it’s cultural for them. I think a lot of football dads have actually kind of pushed their kids into other sports knowing how tough football can be on your body. I think there’s just a unique group of people that have loved the game.”
Rakestraw’s coaching style is an aggressive one. He doesn’t like his team to be reactive. He wants to set the tempo and control possession of the ball. He began to implement his system on Nov. 10 as the Diablos held their first set of tryouts, a completely sold-out event. Rakestraw will look to continue that process on December 16th with the second set of tryouts for the Diablos. Every move from here on out will set a precedent for the expansion squad.
Rakestraw believes spectators will be surprised at the Denton Diablos success in 2019. His confidence stems from the club’s owners in Gochneaur and Michael Hitchcock, both of whom were accomplished players, as well as successful business owners. Chad believes Hitchcock to be one of the most experienced NPSL owners in terms of soccer, while Gochneaur brings a vast marketing background and passion for the game. The three of them are all in.
“You’re establishing culture and you’re establishing a foundation on which the club is going to grow upon,” Rakestraw said. “That foundation has to be built on things that are going to last over time and not diminish. I’m really honored and humbled to be the person who gets to start that.”
Photo Credit: Daniel McCullough