Josh Trejo has always been transparent about his approach to coaching soccer.
“Passion, discipline, respect, motivation, never settling and love,” Trejo said of his coaching style. “I believe that is what has made me successful over the years.
“My goal was to instill these qualities into my players. I wanted my players to feel success, a sense of belief that they were capable of reaching anything they set their mind to.”
When the coronavirus pandemic disrupted high school sports, it prevented Trejo from working with his players to build those traits by keeping him from being with them at all. That began a chain of events that ultimately led the former Polk County standout to step down as the Wolverines’ head coach.
Trejo led Polk County’s boys program for five seasons, compiling a 55-40-4 record. He led the Wolverines to the 1A West Regional final in 2018, was named conference coach of the year in three of his five seasons and won the 2019 Western Highlands Conference title with a perfect 10-0 mark. The 2019 team finished 19-3 and earned the top seed in the 1A West bracket entering the postseason.
The Wolverines finished the 2021 season with a 3-13-1 record, and Trejo felt the lack of connection with his players helped lead to that mark, his only season with a sub-.500 record.
“I stepped down because I felt that my coaching had become ineffective,” he said. “I don’t know if the pandemic or taking time off from school due to remote learning has changed our athletes, but it was very difficult to get through to some players.
“So before losing the love of the game, the game that helped me accomplish so much, create opportunities for me to get an education, to meet people that supported my dream and passion for the game, I decided to give it up.”
A star at Polk County before going on to play collegiately at Spartanburg Methodist College and Emory and Henry, Trejo began his coaching career in the club ranks, working with the Rutherford Rumble (now Foothills Football Club). He served as an assistant and head junior varsity coach at Polk for one season before taking over the varsity program. He also began teaching art at Polk County Middle School and will continue to do so.
Trejo also plans to remain active with soccer through his Trejo Soccer Academy and club coaching.
“I will continue to strive in my dream of training soccer players,” he said. “One day I would love to have my own facility where I can train soccer players everyday. I don’t think people or players understand. Soccer is my identity. I do it every day. I rarely hear anyone say, ‘it’s Trejo, the art teacher.’ It’s always, ‘it’s Trejo, the soccer guy.’
“I want to continue coaching players, possibly in more individualized or small group settings. Continue with my Trejo Soccer Academy, and run camps and clinics for players.”
While Polk accomplished much in the past five seasons, Trejo said the wins and highlights won’t be what he treasures most about leading the program at his alma mater.
“Probably all the memories I have made with the teams over the years,” he said. “All the practices we had, we laughed together, got mad at each other, cried together, but at the end of the day we all had a love for each other. I can go back and think of how each player had an impact on me, and I have always said you can always take something from someone. Doesn’t matter if they weren’t as talented, but maybe they had the biggest heart, or maybe they were the biggest motivator.
“Everybody has a strength, but you have to embrace it.”
Trejo hopes that Polk County’s next head coach will continue to receive as much support as he felt he received. He hopes to be in the stands for a few games this fall.
“I would like to thank Polk County Schools for believing in me to do a job and create a positive impact on our student-athletes,” Trejo said. “I will never forget my time as a coach. Thank you to all who have supported me since day one, and trusted the process.
“I will always love my players. I have stated to my players before, if you play for me, then you are family. I will always be there for you no matter what. So, the players that are still there, I want them to know that I will always be their coach. I have also told them, whoever takes over my job and becomes the new coach. I told them to give him or her a chance. Trust the process. I want them to be successful.”