Hulne: AHS’s Levisen is as good as they get

Published 4:24 pm Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Jens Levisen has always been more than just the head soccer coach of the Austin Packers.

Levisen is a teacher in every sense of the word, he embraces the team concept as much as any other leader in sports who I’ve ever dealt with and he is always calm during the storm.

Levisen recently notched his 200th victory in his 19th season with the Packers and I have been along for most of the ride as sports editor of the Austin Daily Herald.

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I’ve seen the giant impact Levisen has had on the soccer program and the community in general. Due to the worldwide popularity of soccer and Austin’s diverse population, the boys soccer program has often served as a welcoming station for students who have come from far off places. Once on the team, they begin to make some friends and find their place in the school.

Levisen has coached players from Africa, South America, Europe and Asia and he has managed to find the best in those players and blend them into a team that plays together, despite the fact that they carry many different native languages and cultures.

Levisen has a unique style to coaching as the only time I’ve ever heard him raise his voice is when he’s telling his players to calm down and stop talking to the officials. Even those moments have been incredibly rare as Levisen is way more likely to look a player in the eyes and ask them why a mistake happened instead of yelling in their face. Any former Packer player can probably attest that his most famous saying is “does that make sense?” when he is speaking to the team as a group.

Levisen forces his players to think for themselves and take ownership of their own contributions to the team as a whole. That has led to Austin having some very classy, disciplined and effective teams.

If there was a single incident that shows how impressed I have been with Levisen over the years, it wasn’t one of the many section titles he won, or the fact that he made Austin the No. 1 program in the Big Nine for a four-year stretch. It was how he handles his players.

There was a game not too long ago, where one of Austin’s star players was obviously distraught. Something was going on with the team or the player’s home life and that player was visibly sulking as he was getting ready to leave after a game.

Instead of talking down to the player, or putting that player’s needs above the teams, Levisen told the player that he would love to have him on the team, but if he quits, that choice is his alone.

Needless to say, that player did not quit and he played much better after that conversation took place.

Due to the smaller crowds at soccer games, and Levisen’s calm approach, it could be easy to take Levisen’s contributions for granted. But make no mistake, what he has done for soccer and the players who have come through his program is the gold standard for being a leader.