photo courtesy UW-Milwaukee
Kris Kelderman was a champion at every level of soccer, leading Neenah to back-to-back state titles in 1985 and 1986 before winning a collegiate championship at the University of Virginia and the first two Major League Soccer Cup titles with D.C. United. Kelderman is now the head coach at UW-Milwaukee. Here is a look back at his memorable moments.
Undergraduate College Attended: University of Virginia
Current Residence: Glendale, Wis.
Current Career: Head men's soccer coach, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Family (list spouse and children, including ages of children): Spouse - Ellen (former Virginia soccer player); Children - son, Jake (plays soccer at UWM); daughter, Josie (plays soccer at Marquette).
Previous careers: Assistant coach, George Mason University, D.C. United and Kansas City Wizards (Major League Soccer); Head coach, UW-Green Bay (2011).
What game/event against an FVA opponent stands out in your memory and why? It was the quarterfinal game of the 1983 Wisconsin State Championship vs. Kimberly. I was a freshman playing varsity ball. The first Wisconsin State Championship to be hosted at our school, NHS, and we drew Kimberly the first game. It was scheduled on a Thursday afternoon. Our principal gave the high school students the ok to leave school only if they were attending the game. Naturally, the school was empty and Rocket Stadium was packed. Awesome atmosphere! We won 7-2. Tons of goals and the students cheered as loud for the 7th as they did the first. A massive win in front of a massive crowd on our home field against an in-conference rival at the State Tournament!
Who was your favorite athlete you competed against in the FVA? Not to sound arrogant, but our program was quite ahead of all the others in our conference during that period of time. The toughest opponent I consistently faced were the players on my team in our daily training sessions. We had numerous players in our program go on to compete collegiately at all levels- D3, D2, and a handful at D1. We were extremely fortunate to have that much talent and depth to assist in our individual development. Intra-squad scrimmages were sometimes more grueling than our regular season games. In addition, the direction and demand for quality in training on a daily basis from our legendary coach, my father – Harry Kelderman, enhanced our hunger and ability to win.
Who was your favorite FVA team to compete against? I don’t know about favorite, but my “least” favorite team to play against was Menasha! A bitter rival game every year. The infamous game between the Rockets and the Bluejays. It didn’t help that I lived in Menasha my whole life before moving to Neenah right before my high school days. All players knew an ultimate effort was going to be left on the field. Regardless of who was better than who, the emotions involved always made these tough games. One year a fight broke out and a number of players from both teams were thrown out forcing both teams to play shorthanded. Crazy to think that a lot of the players on the field at that time were actually club-ball teammates and good friends. Apparently there was a bit of pride being displayed for school and community on those game days!
What makes you most proud of your high school? During my era, Neenah High School Soccer was the very first program/school from the FVA Conference, much less Northern Wisconsin, to leave the area and challenge ourselves within the soccer hotbeds of the state in Milwaukee and Madison. Our success in these areas revealed to the rest of the state that there was definitely soccer in the “North”. Winning two Wisconsin State Championships at Neenah didn’t hurt either. Respect for our conference and our region began to grow. As the level of soccer grew in the FVA, so did the interest and confidence for others in the FVA to test the waters in areas they didn’t before. Overall, not only did these travels with success display and improve the level of NHS Soccer, but it ultimately paved the way for other FVA schools to do the same.
Please share any other great memories of competing in the FVA: Winning two Wisconsin State High School Championships. Going undefeated in the FVA all four years of varsity soccer at NHS. Having the opportunity to play for my father, who then went onto to achieve legendary status after 36 years of coaching at NHS highlighted with the NHS Soccer field being named after him. Some of the best years of my life!
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