Favorite athlete: Carson Wentz
Favorite team: Philadelphia Eagles
Favorite memory competing in sports: Going to the Senior League World Series in Bangor, Maine with the Upper Moreland Tournament Team in 2015.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: Scoring an own goal against Springfield Delco.
Music on mobile device: A little of everything. Pop, country, hip-hop, rap, classic rock.
Future plans: Go to college and get a good job that makes me happy.
Words to live by: “Nothing worth having comes easy.”
One goal before turning 30: Positively impact as many people in life as I can.
One thing people don’t know about me: I help organize and run my own canned food drive in my neighborhood every year.
By Craig Ostroff
Every high school athlete hopes for a senior season filled with big wins, thrilling highlights, and long postseason marches.
Sometimes, however, the small victories are more important.
That’s been the case for Upper Moreland senior Kevin Walder, a four-year defensive starter for the Golden Bears’ soccer team. Rather than leading his team to postseason glory during his senior season, Walder is being looked upon to mold a young, inexperienced group of players into a team.
While the Golden Bears entered the week with one tie and no wins, the team has taken huge steps forward since the beginning of the season. The small victories are starting to add up.
“We lost a lot of key guys last year,” Walder said. “We have a really young team this year, but we’ve got some great, young players. Even though the season is not going the way we hoped, the guys are still coming fired up.
“Obviously, you go into every season hoping to win as many as possible, but the way this season’s gone, we’re playing much better soccer lately than we did early on. I think we need to find as many little victories as we can along the way and build off those for the future.”
And if Upper Moreland doesn’t reap the rewards of those small victories until next fall, they’ll owe a large debt of gratitude to Walder.
“Kevin is the kind of guy who realizes that we’re in a down year in his senior year, this is just not Upper Moreland’s year, and he’s OK with that,” said first-year Golden Bears’ coach Matt Duffey. “This is the time to teach these younger kids, get them ready for the future. This year has been about getting on the younger guys to get them to play better, and Kevin’s embraced that role.
“Kevin tends to be a quiet kid, he’s a leader by example on the field. He’s one of those kids who works hard in all the drills, makes sure he’s putting in as good a performance as he can. All the kids really respect him. I can’t say enough about him as far as how hard he works, how he’s always willing to help out.”
The senior captain has been a steady, calming presence in a young backfield, and the effects of his presence and leadership have been quite evident as the season has progressed.
“Kevin has been a rock in the back four,” Duffey said. “He’s very calm, a smart, intelligent player. He makes sure we are stable in the back.
“Early on, our defense was not playing well. But as the season progressed and Kevin really embraced that he has to be a mentor to the rest of the defense, you saw the defense playing better. We played Upper Dublin to a tough 1-0 loss, played PW tough, tied Springfield. Our defense had been letting up goals, and that had to be frustrating to Kevin as a senior, but he knew he has to be the guy who stays calm in that situation, keeps the rest of the defense focused and gets them to work harder and work better. And you can see them doing that.”
And while the team is showing glimpses of a positive future with their play, for Walder, it’s been just as critical to make sure that his teammates remain positive and focused on improvements, even if their development has not resulted in victories.
“It’s really important to play even keel, not to get too high or low, especially around a young team like this,” Walder said. “You want to make sure they keep their heads cool and focus on the goal at hand.
“It’s very important to not have the team develop a losing attitude, not establish a losing culture. Every day, whether it’s a game or practice, you want to make sure they’re competitive and not losing focus.
“There’s no question the younger guys have gotten a lot better. We’re starting to see some young guys come into their own. Next year, they’ll be in a much better position to be in games.”
However the soccer season concludes, Walder will have the opportunity to notch some wins in his senior campaign when he suits up in the spring for the Golden Bears’ baseball team. A three-year starter (he also started some games as a freshman), Walder earned Honorable Mention All-League honors at third base for a squad that advanced to the state quarterfinals last season, and he’s hoping this year’s team will also pile up the wins on the baseball diamond.
“I think we’ll be competitive,” he said. “We had a great season last year. We did lose a lot of good guys, but we have good young guys coming up.”
In the classroom, Walder applies the same attitude he does on the athletic fields – 100 percent effort, 100 percent of the time. He’s taking AP Statistics, Government, and Physics among his courseload this year while looking to build upon an already very impressive academic resume. Walder has made Distinguished Honor Roll every marking period in Upper Moreland High School. He is a member of the National Honor Society and is ranked in the top 10 in his class.
“School always comes first. It’s what sets you up for your future. Academics always comes before sports,” said Walder, who is still undecided upon both a college and a major. He plans on continuing to play baseball or soccer in college, either at the intercollegiate level or at a club or intramural level, depending on which college he decides to attend. “I think playing a sport is secondary to making sure I get into a good school. If it’s something I can do, I want to pursue an athletic career, even if it’s just at the club level. But I’m really not looking at playing one sport over the other. Whichever season it is, that’s what my favorite sport is at the time.”
If Walder is able to play soccer in college, he’d be following in the illustrious footsteps of a family member. His older sister Lindsay is a senior at St. Joseph’s University, where she plays midfield for the Hawks’ women’s soccer team after a stellar career at Upper Moreland. Brother Kyle was a standout pitcher for the Golden Bears as well.
“I think any time you come from a family that’s had great success, people expect certain things, but I don’t let that affect the way I play,” Walder said. “I don’t want to say I sensed any pressure from others, but when I came up, people knew my sister. I never thought that affected what I did in any way. I didn’t feel pressure. I knew if I gave it my best, that’s all I could ever ask for. I just come to play every day and try as hard as I can, and whatever happens, I’ll be happy.”
Walder will also be happy if the Bears can secure a mark in the win column before the season ends. But if not, he said he’ll be happy knowing he’s helped set up this team for future success.
“I’d like to get a win or two down the stretch,” Walder said, “but other than that, I just want to make sure I’m doing everything I can to help the team in any way I can, and have fun playing. And when the younger kids come back next year, I hope they’d remember me as a guy who never gave less than everything he could give, and hopefully some of that rubs off on them.”
Wherever Walder’s future takes him, Duffey knows he’ll achieve great things.
“I’ve known Kevin’s family for about five years,” Duffey said. “The whole family are great people. And Kevin is a very intelligent kid, a very driven kid. He’s a great athlete, a great student, a great person. Whatever he ends up doing in the future, he’s going to be successful.”