BILLINGS — Nolan Trafton isn’t just dipping his toes into the head coaching waters. He’s jumping in with both feet.
Billings Central announced Wednesday that Trafton will take over both boys and girls soccer programs at the school in what will be the 23-year-old’s first high school head coaching job.
Trafton, a 2014 graduate of Billings Central, takes over for Didier Ndedi, who also did double-duty for the Rams. Before stepping down following last season, Ndedi coached the boys for six seasons and the girls for four.
The hiring was one of several announced by principal Shel Hanser:
• Jaelene Flynn, a 2011 Central graduate, was named associated head coach for the girls soccer team.
• Kyle Trafton, a 2007 Central graduate and Nolan’s brother, was named associated head coach of the boys soccer team.
• Former Miles City activities director Mike Ryan was named to take over for outgoing AD Richy Powell, who has been at this Central post since 2015. Ryan, a former Class A and Eastern A president, will assume his duties effective this summer. Ryan currently teaches history at Central.
• Former Billings Senior wrestler Tanner Sprenkle will join the Rams wrestling program as an assistant under head coach Barry Morgan. Sprenkle won four wrestling titles from 2008-11.
Nolan Trafton played soccer for the Rams from 2010-2013. He was attending Montana State Billings soccer matches as a fan when Hanser approached him and asked if he’d be interested in helping out Ndedi. Trafton said sure, and had been by Ndedi’s side ever since.
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“Five years later, here we are,” said Trafton, who also has coaching experience with club teams in Billings.
Initially in the hiring process, he was going to coach just the boys. But Hanser and Powell asked him to think about coaching both programs, and the more Trafton thought about it, the more he liked the idea.
In taking over both soccer programs, Trafton will oversee teams on wildly divergent paths.
The Central girls have appeared in four consecutive state championship matches, winning three of them, and have won nine of the last 11 titles. The Rams have another good returning group of players, and should be among the Class A favorites again.
Central’s boys are coming off a 1-9-2 season. Participation numbers in the program were down last year, and Trafton said part of his job with the boys will be to encourage some of the school’s athletes to play.
“With the teams being in two completely different places, it’s an ideal time to have a coach that can do both,” Trafton said. “I think I can switch on and off pretty well. I’ll have realistic expectations and goals for each team and they’ll be well known. I can be a different coach for each team, I can be the coach each team needs.
“I think they have to be approached differently and I think both teams have to feel like they’re getting the appropriate attention they deserve.”
Trafton was on a rebuilding team as a freshman with the Rams in 2010. After that season, though, Central made the playoffs each of his next three seasons. So Trafton is well aware of what lies ahead for he and the Central boys.
“I don’t think you can rebuild in one year, it’s going to be probably a couple years,” he said. “But I’m excited for that challenge. I think it’s going to be really fun.”