Bigger Than Championships
North Texas Soccer's Large Alumni Group Has Created Something Bigger Than Its 13 Championships
Denton – Sitting on Mean Green soccer head coach John Hedlund’s desk alongside the trophies and rings is a toy t-rex.
It’s nothing fancy. It doesn’t have any diamonds nor is it gold plated with the words “championship” written on it. It’s simply a toy.
But the meaning behind the toy is why it gets the prestigious real estate.
“It’s weird but it’s part of us,” said Hedlund, the 23-year-old program’s only head coach.
The t-rex, which was purchased by 2014 graduate Allison Guderian at the mini mall on the Denton square when she was an underclassmen, quickly became the team’s mascot. It went everywhere with the team and became such a part of the program that when they won the conference championship that season Hedlund had their rings engraved with the word “T-Rex” inside of it.
Today, Hedlund’s office now has multiple toy t-rexes that have been given to him. On the wall there is a personalized framed poster of a t-rex wearing sunglasses signed by former players.
The t-rex Allison Guderian bought and the symbol in general has become a memento that connects the past with the current and to this day the dinosaur remains a part of the program that has the largest North Texas alumni following of all of UNT’s sports.
“We all have special memories from our time here, like t-rex,” said current Mean Green soccer player Madeline Guderian who is the younger sister of Allison Guderian. “We have all been part of the UNT success through the years and it has helped build something special.”
The tight bond between the alums and the current program was exemplified this past Saturday when numerous alums braved an awfully cold afternoon to be part of the program’s annual alumni game.
“It’s cool to see everyone come back, no matter how long ago they played at UNT,” Madeline Guderian said. “It’s awesome to see the huge impact UNT and John have had on their lives and that they still want to be part of the program.”
Despite the chilling weather on Saturday, Hedlund stood on the sideline during the alumni game and smiled throughout the 70-minute match as he talked to his former players, some who he hadn’t seen in years.
After the match, all the players, past and current, escaped the cold and went to the team’s meeting room. Inside the team meeting room the walls are covered from top to bottom with pictures of great memories and former players throughout the years.
As they sat there and ate lunch, the alums told stories to the current players, some of whom weren’t even alive when the alums were at UNT.
With each story it became clear what common theme that each alum shared, the championships.
With no losing seasons in program history, every former Mean Green soccer player has graduated with a winning record. Furthermore, nearly every player who graduated at UNT has won a championship at some point during their time with the Mean Green and continuing that winning tradition is something every current and former player strives to accomplish when they come to Denton.
“Every single woman who has come to North Texas has won,” Phillips (’17) said. “To be part of that proud group is humbling.”
As for Hedlund, he gives credit for the winning tradition that has been established to all his former players and the continued success as their extended involvement and care for what has turned into something more than just trophies and rings.
“It means a lot to this program that they have this network and bond,” Hedlund said. “This is their program and it’s great seeing them come back and support something special that goes beyond just the game.”