Gender breakthrough at HVA

Stephens, former FHS Lady Ads star forward, HVA girls soccer head coach, gets rare opportunity as new Hawks boys soccer boss

HARDIN VALLEY — While it’s never been Jessie Stephens’ goal to make history, she will now. She’s also gotten a little busier.

Stephens, girls soccer head coach at Hardin Valley Academy for the last two seasons, will replace Brad Delano as the school’s boys head coach while continuing to lead the Lady Hawks.

HVA made things official Thursday, June 19, when it announced Stephens would replace Delano, who recently resigned. He was in the midst of his second season when the COVID-19 pandemic brought a premature end to the 2019-20 school year and the spring sports season.

While Stephens is one of several coaches in Tennessee to coach the boys team and girls team at the same school, she is the first woman to be a head coach of a varsity boys sport in the Knoxville area.

“When Brad stepped down, my (administration) talked about (her being the boys coach) and one of my club coaches for FC Alliance told me that I could do this.

“I know that I can do this, but it’s nice to hear somebody else say that I can do it,” she added.

Stephens is no stranger to the boys game. She is a former All-state forward, graduate and assistant girls coach at Farragut High School.

When Ray Dover became FHS’s boys coach, he tapped Stephens to be his freshman coach. She later coached the Admirals’ junior varsity boys squad.

She also served in the same capacities for Delano at HVA.

“I really enjoyed my time coaching the boys (when) coaching with Brad,” she said.

The challenges Stephens faces in taking over as head coach of the Hawks aren’t much different than the hurdles she faced with the Lady Hawks.

She’ll be HVA’s fourth boys coach in five years, and will strive to bring some continuity and stability to a program that went 5-10-6 last season while being ravaged with injuries.

Continuity, or lack thereof, has taken its toll, and that’s the first thing Stephens feels she has to change for the boys. She’s already started the process for the Lady Hawks, who won the District 4-AAA Tournament in 2019.

“The one thing that this school has needed for a long time in both soccer programs is consistency, and I think I can provide that consistency,” Stephens said. “We have some talent and we have a really good group (of boys).”

She is the only known female coach in East Tennessee to be a boys head coach, but Stephens said she wasn’t sure that was the case.

“I haven’t heard of one, but don’t quote me on that one because I don’t really know,” she said. “But if I’m the first one in Knox County, then I’m probably the first one in the state.

“(Former FHS soccer head coach) Dennis (Lindsay) said he hasn’t heard of one, and he’s been in soccer since 1987.”

Since Mike McLean resigned as both the boys and girls coach following the spring of 2015, Mark Patterson, Nick Bradford and Delano have coached HVA’s boys. Patterson, Bradford and Stephens have coached the girls.

McLean guided the boys to the 2011 Class AAA state championship, then led them back to the state tournament in 2015 before departing for Atlanta.

He also took the Lady Hawks to the state tourney in 2015. The HVA girls returned to Murfreesboro the following year.