• Emily Bondi

Westminster PAC Champion Walters takes on New Challenge at Thiel

Image Credit--Jason Kapusta

By: Emily Bondi

Soccer is a game of skill, focus and endurance. Much like most sports, soccer teaches players to have confidence on and off the field, believe in themselves and never give up on their dreams. Zack Walters has been playing soccer for 18 years and has a unique relationship with the game.

Walters has been fortunate enough to see both sides of the game as a player and coach. Walters is from Hermitage, PA and went to Hickory High School. Walters has had many amazing moments with this game. “One of my favorite memories from high school soccer was my first varsity start, my sophomore year. We ended up winning the game 2-1 I believe, and I had scored a bicycle kick that game. Obviously, it was awesome to do so, and there was lots of adrenaline.” Walters said.

Walters knew he wanted to play soccer at the collegiate level, but his road to making that happen was not easy. He knew it would take determination and persistence and he made it happen.

“My recruiting process was difficult since I was from a decently small area where soccer isn’t that big. I had basically recruited myself to a handful of schools before my senior year. I had some D2 offers but decided that D3 really fit my academic profile and social fit. My final three were actually between three PAC schools: Geneva, Thiel, and Westminster.”

Walters made his decision pretty late in the game. In April of his senior year Westminster was his final choice. Walters was a double major in Business Administration and Sports Management and graduated in May 2018. “I was a part of the first ever Sports Management graduating class at WC, and I believe I was the first student to graduate with that distinct double major.”

Walters had a lot of big moments as a Westminster Titan soccer player, but one for the memory books was winning the 2015 Presidents Athletic Conference championship. Walters said with ease “The whole week in general will most likely never be topped in my life. During the week we beat #2 in the nation Thomas More and then followed it up by beating Geneva.” Walters scored the winning goal in the semi-final game against Thomas More making it a 2-1 victory.

Walters had many highs as a player at Westminster and he knew he wanted to continue soccer after college. After applying to many Graduate Assistant positions, but not finding the right fit Walters took matters into his own hands and talked to Westminster Coach Thakar.

“I loved the campus and knew the team well so I spoke with Coach Thakar and he allowed me to join the staff, which I was very thankful for. Since they didn’t have a Graduate Assistant position open, I joined as a Volunteer Assistant while I took classes.” Walters is continuing his academic career at Westminster receiving his Master’s of Education and is expected to graduate in May 2020, with hopes to teach at the collegiate level one day.

After helping coach Westminster for the 2018-2019 season Walters is making a move and going to coach one of Westminster’s PAC rivals at Thiel. Walters truly has had the full experience as a Westminster Titan and coach.

Image Credit--Traci Newsome

At Thiel Walters is the Assistant Men’s Soccer Coach and is excited to create a winning culture. “The team has some really talented players and the school community is fantastic. Creating a culture and mindset that Thiel Soccer has never really experienced would be my main goal and what we are aspiring to do here.

Being able to play the sport you love and coach it has been very rewarding to Walters especially getting to play and coach for your college team. “It was definitely different than being on the field, but I don’t think any better or worse. You still get the pre-game jitters and adrenaline rush. I always have thought that if I were not nervous before a game then why would I still do it.”

The game Walters is very excited for this season is Westminster vs. Thiel and says it has been circled on his calendar for some time now. It is a Friday Night game and it will be Thiel’s Homecoming and Senior night. “It will definitely be a different perspective since some of my best friends are till on WC’s team, but I’m excited for it. Things change year to year so I wouldn’t say we’ll have a leg up, but I think it will be a more even game than most people expect. In the end, the game will be about the athletes. Both for the WC and Thiel players, so I’m more excited to watch them play and have a special night of their own.”

Walters, who has shown through passion and determination that soccer has allowed him to succeed in many aspects. Not many people can say they have played and coached for their college team. The best advice Walters can share would be to find value in any situation. “There is always something to learn from whatever you do. Soccer carries into all aspects of life. Lessons you learn on the field or at practice will be there off of the field. Constantly learn and evaluate information so that you can apply it to whatever you do.”

Good luck to Walters and his Thiel soccer family this season.

For more Western Pennsylvania sports stories, you can find Emily Bondi on Twitter