Towering over the rest of the coaching staff, Wade Webber could be a retired ranger. Not the Army version, but those horseback riding, archery experts that helped win the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. He is tough, decisive, and a child of the 253.
Defiance Assistant Coach Wade Webber is from the area, similar to Seattle Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. Wade was born in Renton; raised in Federal Way; went to school at Thomas Jefferson High School; graduated from University of Portland; and earned a Masters in Teaching from Seattle University. Webber also started his professional career with the Seattle Sounders in the A-League era.
Like Coach Schmetzer, he sees his role as a steward of the club, but “not most famously like the Steward of Gondor who, of course, was a great failure.”
When Tacoma Defiance Coach Chris Little met Webber, he noticed the same thing you just did.
“He’s a really nice guy that knows everything about Lord of the Rings.”
Most conversations with Webber will turn to Tolkien at some point. It is part of who he is. It would be easy to think that Wade’s double major in History and Psychology are related to Aragorn, but Webber is more complex than that. He’s a former teacher and high school soccer coach at TJ. His youngest child graduated from college this month.
Little says that Wade is “Very intelligent with a good memory – those are the things that stand out. You could tell he had a teaching background from his ability to share and deliver information.”
When Little first moved to the region, he and Webber were partners, both coaching a different age group. They were peers. Little sees no change in their relationship now that Little is head coach and Webber is assistant. They are a team that works together.
Wade does see a bit of change within himself. That aspect as steward has taken over his approach to his role.
“Everyone wants to win”
“Now when I’m with Defiance I think it is important, but I have the perspective that there is one team that is truly important – we all exist to serve the First Team. Within that context – everyone wants to win. It has broadened my perspective about roles and responsibilities within the club. The fact that today I’m running lines in a training session – whatever. I’ll do whatever. We all exist to serve the club.”
Part of what Wade tries to do in service to the club is serve as a bit of a father figure to his players. About two-thirds of the Defiance roster are from outside of the region. Many of those moved here as youth under the age of 18. Webber hosts occasional dinners with those players.
“I try to do it with the outsiders, the kids not from town. Especially now, with the guys that I coach being younger than my children, they’re almost like other kids that I have.”
For Nick Hinds, who played under Webber in the Academy and now with Defiance, having coaches that opened him up to the region was important.
“They said if I needed anything I could go to their house, or meet somewhere, or stay after training. They helped me acclimatize to the area since I moved across the country with different weather and different people. They helped me change my life for the better.”
Webber can be a little hard. His role is not as a friend. He’s their coach and one of many stewards of the organization.
“They need someone who will tell them ‘that’s not good enough’ or ‘that’s good’ or put an arm around them when they need comfort or kick them in the butt when they need that as well.”
Hinds appreciates that type of feedback.
“He’s hard on us, but we all appreciate it. In the Academy he was more laid back because we were younger. You didn’t want to get under his skin. Now he tells it like it is. Personally, I like it. I like constructive criticism because it has a positive impact on me.”
Webber also uses his Lord of the Rings analogies with the players. It’s part of him, as much as the Pacific Northwest is part of him. Nick gives a little smile when talking about who his coach is as a person.
“He’s a very funny guy. His analogies are creative and funny.”
Outside of Sounders/Defiance soccer, and a love for Tolkien, Webber has one other significant passion – music. Where Little’s musical tastes focused on Brit-rock, Webber has a much broader collection. Little also appreciates Wade’s singing voice.
“He has an amazing musical catalog. He’s a very good karaoke man as well. If you get yourself down to Federal Way on a Thursday night, you will hear Wade Webber perform.”
Like most coaches, Webber’s story comes back to his sport and his club. Though he wandered, playing for a few other teams like the Dúnedain, he is a Man of the West, a Ranger of the North. There is wisdom and discernment in the coach. He is tough and his words echo those of Aragorn.
“We are all charged with this. We will do whatever we can.”