WOODSBORO – Transition is a challenge any time, but considering the unique difficulties created by the response to the COVID-19 crisis, social distancing and schools being closed, Woodsboro’s new athletic director and head football coach, John Lesak, has some formidable tasks ahead to prepare for the next season and school year.
Woodsboro ISD tapped Lesak for the job at the April 27 WISD Board of Trustees meeting. Lesak most recently served as a coach in the Edna school district.
Regardless of those adjustments to be made, Lesak said he is looking forward to becoming a part of the Woodsboro community. Joining him will be his wife Manda, who currently serves as an assistant principal for Edna ISD, and their three children, Jackson, 7, Joseph, and Jacob, who will soon turn 3.
“It’s exciting — we’re as excited as anyone can be, especially with the opportunity to come to a place like Woodsboro,” Lesake said. “This is a great community and I’m looking forward to meeting the kids and being part of it.”
At Edna, Lesak was special teams coordinator for the football team, the strength and conditioning coach for both the boys and girls athletic programs and also head softball coach.
Before working at Edna, Lesak had coached at Ganado, Runge, New Caney and Victoria East. He is a 2010 graduate of Texas A&M University and earned his masters degree from Lamar University in 2012.
Lesak grew up in Ganado and said he is used to being involved in a little bit of everything.
“Ganado is a small town, and I participated in band, FFA, football, basketball and golf,” he said.
It was during his early years as a student that Lesak said he decided he wanted to be a coach.
“I was in junior high, and I knew I wanted to be a coach one day,” Lesak said. “In college I was able to work as a volunteer coach and get in a little time at A&M Consolidated, and that was a very valuable experience for me.”
Having the opportunity to coach in Woodsboro, which enjoyed a long string of playoff seasons — including a trip to tround three of the playoffs in 2018 — before suffering a winless season in 2019 — is something that has fueled Lesak’s motivation.
“I’ve always been impressed with the way the kids work, and you can always tell when a community supports their students, and that’s something you see here,” Lesak said. “There is tremendous support for the students and for the football program and we are really excited about being a part of that.”
Communities rally around their schools, and that’s especially the case in small towns like Woodsboro. Lesak said he is eager to be a part of that.
“The school is the pinnacle of the town in a lot of ways, and it’s great to be able to be a part of that,” he said.
There’s a strong family atmosphere in communities like Woodsboro that fits well with his outlook and way of life, he said.
“Family is very important,” Lesak said. “We are a team and do everything we can together. We are a living example of that, and it’s something we will also show in our school and athletic programs. Our boys will go to school here, we will go to church here, buy things here. We want to be a part of the community.”
Asked who has inspired him in his life and career, Lesak said “there’s a long list. My high school coaches, whether it was the head coach or assistant coaches, were very important to me. They loved us and coached us hard, and we learned and grew because of that.”
He credited former A&M Consolidated head football coach and athletic director Jim Slaughter with helping prepare him for the coaching ranks.
“I was able to work with Coach Slaughter for three years and he’s a Texas high school football coaching legend,” Lesak said. “He and the staff took me under their wing and taught me all they could and those are things that have helped me a lot. I’ve had the opportunity to work with several state champion head coaches, and I’ve learned a lot from them.”
Lesak had an opportunity to return to his hometown and work as an assistant coach under the leadership of Keith Wright, which was also a great learning experience, Lesak said.
“Coach Wright was able to teach me as a player and as a coach and that was really invaluable,” he said.
“My dad and the uncles that I grew up around are also a big reason why I love high school football so much. Every Friday night since I was 5 years old we would go to games. Football is one of the greatest games ever invented. The joy and love of the game are so high — there’s nothing else like it.”
Woodsboro Superintendent Janice Sykora said she is excited to welcome Lesak and his family to the community, and is looking forward to great things in the future.
“Coach Lesak is a leader, and I believe he can take the students as far as they are willing to go,” Sykora said. “He is a great motivator.”
She acknowledged that during these times of school closures, this will be an unusual time of transition.
“Because of COVID-19 and no students being on campus, it will definitely be a difficult transition,” Sykora said. “He will be contacting students by email and Facebook to organize them and to introduce himself.
“Coach Lesak has three lovely boys, and his wife also has outstanding accomplishments. They have a wonderful family, and we are very happy they will be moving to Woodsboro.
“He is a real leader, a champion and someone we believe will do a great job in working with our students. We are excited about having him join us and look forward to having our students and community meet him.”
Lesak said he is ready to hit the ground running and eager to help make a positive impact in Woodsboro.
“One of the biggest things I am looking forward to is being able to meet the kids and the people in the community,” he said. “This is an all-in situation for me just like it is for them. I know it will be a transition for both of us with somebody new coming in, but we will work together to be successful and get the job done.”
Over the offseason, Lesak will form a coaching staff to help the program reach its goals.
“The coaching staff will be made up of people who truly want to be in Woodsboro,” he said. “When it’s all said and done we will put together the best staff we can, and one of the most important things will be their commitment to being a Woodsboro Eagle.
“That’s my big message coming in. We will work hard to be successful, but it will also be a family atmosphere. That’s an important message, and it’s genuine.”
Jeff Osborne is the editor of the Refugio County Press.