By Chris McCarthy/ Publisher/Editor
Another form of high school football soon will hit Yellow Jacket country.
Glencoe will field a girls varsity soccer team next spring, fulfilling the wish of a number of GHS and Glencoe Middle student-athletes who wanted to represent their school on the pitch.
According to GHS principal Charlton Giles, the program is officially declared as a varsity sport with the Alabama High School Athletic Association and is awaiting a placement in a section. The Lady Yellow Jackets most likely will join Class 1A-4A Section 6, which currently includes Westbrook Christian, Crossville, Donoho, Sacred Heart and Jacksonville.
Tryouts will be held in mid-August, with first formal practice on Jan. 20 and the first game on Feb. 10. Giles noted that although there was interest for some time for a GHS girls soccer team, he waited until the time was right in terms of available players and committed coaches and parents.
That time has arrived. Glencoe Middle teacher Donna Ingram will be the head coach and 1991 GHS graduate Craig Smith will assist.
“Right now we have about 20 young ladies of (varsity) school playing age (7th grade and above) who have been playing competitive travel soccer for a while,” said Giles. “Our biggest problem is that we didn’t have someone on the school faculty that was willing to step up and coach the team, and Donna has taken on that responsibility. She’s the real hero here, and both she and Craig realize the big picture in this process.”
Giles said that several girls are veterans of the local Fusion Futbol Club, while a few others belong to the Vestavia Hills Soccer Club.
“I’m really excited for the players, because we’ve got some hard-working girls,” he said. “If we’re in the section that I think we’ll be in, we feel like we’ll be a playoff contender in Year 1.”
The City of Glencoe will provide the team with a practice facility at Independence Field, located across from the middle school and behind the volunteer fire department building between Lonesome Bend and Taylor roads. The Lady Yellow Jackets’ home games will be played at Weeks Field in the Gadsden Sports Complex off Meighan Boulevard.
“We had parents saying among themselves that the girls were getting old enough for high school varsity and that they’d like to play [soccer] as a school sport,” said Ingram, the current cross country and former volleyball coach at GHS. “They talked to Mr. Giles, and he asked me if I would be interested in coaching the team. We’ll be young in terms of age, but we’ll be fairly experienced because so many of the girls have played club soccer for years. It’s really going to be great to start out with such a strong group. I think we’ll hold our own this year.”
Ingram said she’ll learn soccer on the fly during program’s inaugural season.
“I never played soccer and my kids didn’t play, so this is all new for me. I’m technically the coach, but Craig has the expertise. But I’m going to learn as much as I can learn. That’s how I jumped into volleyball four or five years ago. We’re all going to to learn together.”
Smith, whose daughter Katie is an incoming freshman at GHS, has been coaching area girls travel soccer for the past several years for the Fusion Futbol Club.
“It’s exciting because we’ve worked so hard to get this program started,” he said. “Just being able to be involved is great. We do have a lot of experienced players coming in, and I believe that we can be good, but we’ll be a young team. As it looks right now, we’ll maybe have one 11th grader, three or four 10th graders, and the rest will mostly be made up of 7th, 8th and 9th graders. But we’ll have quite a few girls who have played either D-I or D-II competitive ball.
“As far as putting the girls at a particular position, we’ll evaluate the level of the players’ foot skills, passing and receiving and go from there. A lot of the girls don’t have 11 vs. 11 experience, so they’ll have to learn that game.”
Smith said that a new soccer facility currently is under construction at Independence Field.
“We’ve had a lot of donations from the county,” he said. “[Etowah County Commissioner] Joey Statum did all of the moving of the dirt that was donated by someone else. I also want to thank the City of Glencoe, [State Rep.] Mack Butler, [GHS athletic trainer] Chris Russell, Michael Arthur, Jeff Little and the entire Glencoe Athletic Foundation and of course Mr. Giles, who went above and beyond everything to give the girls this opportunity. I just hope the girls appreciate all of the people, a lot of whom they don’t know, that are helping out with this.”