Coach’s Box: Balcom leading team to turnaround, passing love of sports to family


Tracy Tran

Coppell coach James Balcom watches the action at Buddy Echols Field on Feb. 23 against MacArthur. Balcom has been coaching the Coppell boys soccer team for nine years and teaches world geography at CHS9.

Angela Yuan, Staff Writer

James Balcom has been the head coach of boys soccer at Coppell for three years. He developed a love for sports at a young age, and his competitive nature drove him to become a soccer coach. He teaches world geography at CHS9 and has three children: 7-year-old Carson, 5-year-old Mason and 2-year-old Ally. He shares his passion by teaching them to play different sports.

How long have you been coaching?

This is my 12th year overall. I was here [at Coppell] for six years as an assistant, and this is my third year as head coach.

What kind of philosophy do you try to incorporate into your coaching?

I just try to keep the players as relaxed as they can. We’ve seen coaches come in and yell and scream and dictate. From what I’ve noticed, oftentimes, those players are very nervous to play and a little too uptight. So, my goal as a coach is to put them in good situations that are going to help them be successful and just let them play. A big thing we try to do is get the ball at their feet through offseason as much as we can. Our goal is to let the players play and be a resource for them as much as we can. It’s been working out pretty well. In my first year [2012], we made a run to the state tournament. Last year, we went a couple rounds deep in the playoffs. This year, we had a slow start. We started some new players to varsity, freshmen and sophomores. I think this group’s needed a little bit more guidance than some of the other groups we’ve had in the past, but they’re starting to turn a corner. I like being around the kids, seeing them do something they enjoy and being able to be a part of that, helping them follow that excitement and their passion for it. Having a team of guys who are competing for something they want to achieve keeps me going.

What challenges have you faced coaching soccer?

Every year brings different challenges. A couple of years ago, when we made a state run, we had 27 incredible players who all needed to be on the field. It’s trying to manage the dynamic of how we play the best players when everybody deserves to play this year. The challenge has been finding the right group. We’ve got great players. It’s taken a while putting them together in a system that will benefit them the most, but we’ve finally gotten there. The challenge early on was getting the right players in the right spots. We lost a couple of games early, so the challenge now is fighting for that playoff spot and keeping the boys engaged and working hard.

How does coaching soccer compare to teaching a class?

There are definitely similarities. In the classroom, you have all sorts of different kids with different needs with different learning styles, which is very similar to coaching, but with soccer, these kids want to be here every day, so we’re able to push them and make them work hard. Sometimes, in the classroom, a lot of kids feel like they have to be there, so it’s little more work to get them to do what they need to do, but there’s always a lot of overlap between teaching and coaching.

How did you first become involved in sports?

At a young age, my parents would sign me up. Growing up, a big passion of mine was playing any sport I could every single day. It was all I wanted to do. As I got older, trying to figure out what career path I wanted to do, nothing really stuck or sounded good other than being around a sport, so coaching was a natural fit. Growing up, baseball was my sport, but when I got to high school, I developed a passion for soccer. Baseball slowed down a little for me, and I wanted something with a little more pace and excitement. My passion came from competition. Whatever it was, I wanted to win and be the best at. I’ve noticed some kids either have that or don’t, but for me, it was definitely just competing. Whatever it was, it was something I wanted to do, and sports became that outlet. I didn’t have much musical or dancing ability, so sports was definitely the route. 

Do your children play sports as well?

Yes, my two boys, [Carson and Mason], we just finished basketball. They have soccer and baseball starting up right now. It’s pretty constant, [practice on] every night of the week and games on Saturdays. They love it, enjoy it and they’ve been finding some success. Of course, being a soccer coach, I like that they play soccer, but whatever sport they want to play is where we’re going to help them be successful.

What is it like to balance a home life with three kids and coaching soccer?

It’s tough. I’ve felt it more this year than any other year as kids start to get older and need a lot more help and guidance at home, but I’ve got a very supportive wife. She takes the kids when we’re in season and does a great job there. In summer, I’m able to spend a lot more time with them. It is a balance. It’s something that can be difficult for a lot of coaches, and we see teachers and coaches who get burned out. If you have a good support system around you, it’s something you can manage, and Coppell does a great job of helping teachers and coaches manage work life and personal life.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I like hanging out with family and kids, whether that’s in practice or just around the house. I try to be a big reader, but we got our kids an Xbox for Christmas, and video games are starting to pick up a little bit. I probably need to scale back, but it’s definitely good to have that release from everything and just shut the mind off at night. I like playing FIFA and Halo, and with the kids, Rocket League.

Follow Angela Yuan (@anglealey) and @SidekickSports on Twitter.