Coaching milestones are tough to achieve when focused on one team year in and year out. Coach two varsity teams at the same time and the toll it takes on a coach would be enough to make anyone look for a way out. Not Waxahachie’s Jason Venable.
Since 2005 Venable has been the leader of the boys and girls soccer programs at Waxahachie High School and in the process has put together a combined record of 201-85-34 as coach of the varsity teams. He joined Waxahachie in 2004 as the boys coach but took over the girls program as well in 2005 and has led both teams to the playoffs while earning several coaching honors.
Coaching on the varsity level since 1996, Venable reached a coaching milestone last Friday in the season finale in Corsicana.
As his Lady Indians rolled through the Lady Tigers 4-1 Venable picked up his 300th career varsity win.
“I didn’t even know I had won 300,” Venable said. “It’s a big accomplishment but with coaching both teams I may have an advantage over some other coaches, probably. I have been very fortunate to have been a part of so many athletes’ lives. I enjoy coaching both boys and girls and hope that I can continue to touch their lives as much as they touch mine. Some have played D1 or college ball, others have become doctors and lawyers. Some even have become coaches. I stay in touch with a lot of them and enjoy catching up with them and their families now. I am getting old.”
Entering the season Venable knew he was closing in on 300 wins but thought it would take a special year for him to reach the milestone as he entered 24 wins shy of 300.
It has been just that, special.
The Lady Indians have simply dominated teams and posted 18 wins while the Indians picked up the additional six wins Venable needed to reach 300 in the season finale. If the Lady Indians win six more games, providing all 24 wins Venable needed to reach 300, they would also provide him with one of his most coveted goals – playing for a state championship.
“I don’t think any coach can do this job and never want or dream of going to Georgetown to the state tournament,” Venable said. “I also want to win a district championship here with the boys. I know we can do it, but we have yet to get there. I want both teams to be district champs in the same year before I am done here.”
A graduate of Ennis High School, Venable’s coaching career started 28 miles away from his hometown at Midlothian High School in 1996. He started the program for Midlothian and his first team was a co-ed squad that finished the year with a 6-12 record.
“I do remember that season and having three girls start with two in the back. They were scrappy,” Venable said. “It was a very enjoyable group but we got it handed to us a few times. Back then we played all schools together (4A and 5A) and we had teams like Cedar Hill in our district. There still are a few off that team playing Major League Soccer. So it was tough but we made the best of it. I still stay in contact with a few off that team still today.”
After the 6-12 start Venable guided the Panthers to their first winning season in 2000 with a record of 14-5-2 before leading the team to its first district championship and bi-district title in 2001 with a record of 16-3.
While the UIL made several changes in soccer over the years the Midlothian program moved from a Class 4A soccer team to a Class 5A team at the start of the 2011 season, 10 years after Venable helped it reach the playoffs for the first time.
“We were a small 4A with a co-ed team playing a boys varsity schedule with no JV. By the time I left we had four teams, two boys and two girls teams and were very competitive,” Venable said. “We won district that last year I was there and made it to the playoffs for the first time in school history. It was good times.
“Since then it has just exploded with quality players. I am good friends with Austin Guest that is over there now. We go way back. He was one of the guys that convinced me that coaching both boys and girls was something I should explore doing. He has done a great job over there and he had them ready for going to 5A. It is hard to imagine that small 4A program that was co-ed is now a 5A team.”
Guest was the head coach at Red Oak when Venable took the Midlothian position and accomplished a milestone of his own earlier this year as he picked up his 200th varsity boys win. Guest owns more than 400 wins coaching boys and girls soccer and it was his success and encouragement that helped Venable try something new one year after accepting the Waxahachie position.
After posting a 54-39-5 record in five years at Midlothian, Venable left for Colleyville Heritage. In two years with the boys he posted a 32-10-9 record while leading the team to the area playoffs. Despite the success he missed Ellis County.
“I had been in Midlothian for seven years and had developed a decent program and wanted to try my hand at the 5A level in what I knew was a hot bed of soccer talent, so I made the jump,” Venable said. “The program had never been in the playoffs so I felt that in the two years I was there we were successful as we got in the playoffs, beat Arlington in the first round and then faced our district champ, Coppell, in the second round and lost. Coppell won the state title that year.
“I was driving back and forth from Ennis to Colleyville every day and it took its toll on me. But the main reason I came back close to home was that my wife, Jennifer (government teacher at WHS), had discovered she was then pregnant with my twin boys (Jackson and Tucker). I had also been coaching football and the time and travel was not ideal to start a new family. I was lucky, that year the Waxahachie boys job opened and I was fortunate enough to get it. I was very fortunate.”
Venable posted a 13-12-3 record his first season in Waxahachie as the boys coach before taking over the girls program from Kasey Lenoir who vacated the position after two years.
In his first year as a girls head coach Venable inherited a talented team and led the Lady Indians to the regional quarterfinals and a 19-4-1 record.
The Lady Indians advanced to the regional semifinals and finished with a 19-2-3 record in 2006 before Venable guided the Indians to the playoffs in 2006. The 2006 season marked the first time Venable guided both teams to the postseason, a feat that was accomplished again in 2009.
In his eight years at Waxahachie Venable has guided nine teams to the playoffs and only missed the playoffs in the 2007 season despite strong records from both teams. In 2007 the Indians posted a mark of 14-4-3 while the Lady Indians were 18-2-2.
Both teams finished the 2007 season in fourth place as the top-three teams in district made the playoffs at that time. The Lady Indians actually finished tied for second in district but because of tie-breakers fell to fourth and missed the playoffs after posting one of the best regular season records in school history.
One reason for Venable’s success as a girls coach when he arrived in Waxahachie was the on-field ability of Katie Hinds.
The Waxahachie girls program started in 2000 and Hinds put the team on the map when she stepped on the field in 2004, a year before Venable took over the program.
Hinds scored 22 goals her freshman year to lead the team before setting all sorts of Waxahachie records over the next three years.
“Coach Venable always managed to keep me motivated,” Hinds said. “He stressed that no matter how many goals we scored individually, the team was more important and winning was our ultimate goal. Even though I ended up scoring many goals during my high school career, he taught me to be an unselfish player.”
When she completed her Waxahachie career in 2007 she was the girl’s all-time leading scorer with 128 goals and all-time assist leader with 82. She holds two single season records with 40 goals in the 2006 and 28 assists the same year.
“The best thing about coach Venable is that he truly cares about his players. I’ve had numerous coaches in the past that couldn’t see past winning, and each player was just an athlete that would soon be replaced. Coach Venable always treated us with respect and in turn we respected him. I’m proud to have been a part of these 300 wins, and I hope he has many more wins coming his way,” Hinds said.
Hinds signed with Texas Tech to continue her soccer career and is one of nine Lady Indians to take their game to the next level.
“Coach Venable didn’t have a huge impact on my college choice because colleges usually recruit through club soccer, but he told me that he would be proud of me no matter where I decided to go. While I was playing for Tech, he constantly wanted updates and pictures and he came to a few of my games nearby. It was awesome to maintain a relationship with him after high school,” Hinds said.
The player’s coach had another super star to lean on once Hinds graduated as Emily Saunders made her varsity debut as a freshman in 2008.
Saunders scored 18 goals her first season as the Lady Indians finished with a 14-6 record and missed the playoffs while the boys team finished at 16-6 and made the postseason.
That was the last time Saunders and the Lady Indians have missed the playoffs as the team has posted a 55-12-9 record over the last three year and continue to make history in the process.
In 2009 the Lady Indians won the District 28-4A championship, the first in school history, to give Venable his second district title before the team won district again this season.
In seven years as a girls coach Venable has posted a record of 125-26-15 with five playoff appearances.
“I think coach Venable’s personality connects well with girls because he’s very laid back. He could be firm when he needed to be, but I don’t think he ever enjoyed yelling at us,” Hinds said. “Even though he may not want to admit it, I think we made him laugh about 80 percent of the time he was around us. We all know he’s really just a big teddy bear.”
Hinds’ school records were thought to be unreachable when she graduated but the coaching and teaching by Venable has led Saunders to be able to challenge the lofty marks.
“Coach Venable has been amazing throughout my high school career. He always does what is best for the team and every one of us really respects him,” Saunders said. “To me personally, he has been almost like a second dad. He is always ready to sit down with you and hear about what is going on in your life and he always looks out for the player’s best interest. Not only is he a great coach, but he is a great mentor too.”
Saunders enters the playoffs second all-time in scoring (117) as she has scored 31 goals this season including five hat tricks. She is nine goals behind Hinds’ single season scoring record but none of it would have been possible without the leadership of Venable.
He has been named district coach of the year three times as a girls coach and Region II coach of the year twice.
On the boys’ side Venable has an 89-81-22 record at Waxahachie with three playoff appearances while seven players have played college soccer.
One of the those players, Thomas McNamara, signed with Saint Gregory’s in 2009 and was a part of the 2009 bi-district champs as the last team to make the postseason for the Indians.
“Coach helped me learn that skill and talent alone is not enough to be successful. If a team is committed and willing to put the effort forth then they will be successful,” McNamara said.
A two-time district boys coach of the year, Venable has a 175-130-36 record as a boys coach and an overall record of 300-156-51.
“Coach Venable was instrumental in my development as a player as well as a person. He always pushed me to push myself,” Chase Woodhouse said. “As a player, he desired to see me put my best effort into each drill, each game, etc. He also helped develop me as a leader. I was never really a vocal leader, so he always encouraged me to lead by example. He would call me out when I wasn’t doing this and motivate me to change. It’s wonderful that coach got his 300th win. His hard work for our program has paid off and I wish him luck in the playoffs and the upcoming years.”
According to the Texas Association of Soccer Coaches, Venable is in the top-10 in combined career wins in Class 4A of reported records.
“I plan to just keep on coaching and doing as I have always done. If it is in the cards that I win a few and get to another milestone so be it,” Venable said.
“I enjoy my life and my job and can’t see myself doing anything else in the foreseeable future. I have been blessed to end up here in Waxahachie. Being an Ennis boy I would never have dreamed I would end up at Waxahachie High School, but each year I am here I am thankful for the opportunity. We have great kids and a great school and I love being an Indian.”