A full beard separates Hayden Klarfeld from the Phoenix Arcadia boys soccer players with whom he coaches on the school’s synthetic turf field during practices.
He barks out directions, makes passes and drills shots to the net.
Klarfeld, at 22, might be the youngest head varsity coach in the state. And this is his third year coaching at his alma mater.
He led Arcadia’s junior varsity team the past two years after then-Athletic Director Kevin Mooney, Klarfeld’s economics teacher at Arcadia, knew Klarfeld had transferred from the University of Arizona to Arizona State and asked if he would like to coach.
After varsity coach Michael Van Ess left following last season, Klarfeld was promoted to head varsity coach mainly because of a strong endorsement from the players. Arcadia administrators were given a handwritten letter that was signed by all of the varsity players requesting that Klarfeld be given the job.
He graduated from ASU and works full-time as an account manager at Amino Transport in Scottsdale.
“I knew it would be a lot to put on my plate, but I accepted the position because I believed in the team and the program we had built up over the years,” said Klarfeld, who played for Rob Reniewicki at Arcadia in 2011 and ’12.
Klarfeld has led Arcadia to a 5-2 record with seniors Jack Spier and Keaton McDonald leading the way.
Those two players were instrumental in starting a tutoring program to keep players eligible with a C average required in the Scottsdale Unified School District.
“Last year, they realized we had grade problems and wanted to do something about it,” Klarfeld said. “The two of them put together a tutoring program to where we actually tutor each other. We’ll come out here, and and we’ll sit down. If anyone has grade issues, we won’t allow it to be a problem. What I’ve taught these kids, by being on this team, their actions no longer affect themselves. It’s bigger than them.
“When someone has an issue with grades, we have an issue with the team.”
There has been no issue with grades this season, as the Titans’ bond becomes inseparable on and off the field.
“We wanted to help change the way our team views academics,” Spier, a midfielder, said. “That’s translated into motivation. It’s been wonderful to see.”
There are two sign-up sheets at Arcadia for special tutoring. McDonald, a defender, said that it’s constant, open communication concerning academics among teammates.
“The part that makes it work for us, it’s others on the team that is doing the tutoring for them,” McDonald said.
Last year, a couple of players had become ineligible, but teammates picked them up with tutoring to get them back on the field.
“It helped get us in the playoffs,” Spier said.
McDonald and Spier can relate to Klarfeld, a former player who had some of the same teachers as them in high school.
“Just being in our position a few years ago, it helps coaching the team,” McDonald said.
Spier said Klarfeld was like a varsity assistant the past two years, so it was easy to work for him.
“Our team was in a state of uncertainty at the time,” Spier said after losing last year’s coach. “Everybody was advocating for Coach Hayden.”
Klarfeld never thought of coaching after graduating from Arcadia, because he wasn’t pursuing being a teacher. He figured that to lead a high school program he would have to be part of the faculty.
But it has worked out well for Klarfeld with his work schedule, getting off at 3 p.m. to get to Arcadia for practice.
When he had hernia surgery a week before the season began, that was a setback. He felt frustrated because he couldn’t participate in drills with them.
“It’s been a real gift to be able to do this,” Klarfeld said. “I think it is surprising that I am young and leading the program.”
When Klarfeld played, Arcadia didn’t get to the playoffs, and chemistry, he said, was missing.
This team is a mix of players from diverse backgrounds coming from different parts of the world. But they’re winning, learning and lifting each other up.
“I’ve played on this field,” Klarfeld said. “I’ve put those jerseys on that they put on. They believe in each other. … We’ve got that chemistry.”