In 2002 at the national soccer convention in Philadelphia, Anson Dorrance asked me if I would be interested in working camps at UNC, of course I jumped on the chance. In the four years that have followed I have spent 15 days every summer in Chapel Hill in late July and early August learning from some of the best soccer coaches in the world. Along with the opportunity to learn, I have made some good friends, one of them is David Hicks. David is the Athletic Director and boys soccer coach at Northern Vance High School in Henderson NC. David has been up for the NSCAA national soccer coach of the year twice. Finally after a few years of talking about it, we were able to make our dream of playing come true. He arranged for us to play Northern Vance on Monday and Northern Nash from Rocky Mount on Thursday.
I’ll let the players talk to you about their perspectives on the trip, here are mine. First and foremost, I wanted them to be exposed to what it takes to play soccer at the highest level in our country. I wasn’t sure about the level of competition and as it turned out it wasn’t as high as we had thought it would be, but I had arranged for the girls to watch UNC train and then get a tour of the soccer facilities, that is an opportunity that most high school girl soccer players don’t get.
The facilities at both schools we played were top of the line. Perfect surface, nice bleachers, very gracious players and coaches. The first ten minutes of the first game we played very well and jumped out to an early lead going on to win 7-0. The halftime score of the second game was 3-2, Northern Nash came into the game 7-0-1, fortunately we erupted for four second half goals to win 7-2.
There were three refs, with three whistles and three sets of cards. I had never even heard of this. One stayed in the middle as a center ref would, the other two were positioned as AR’s but equipped to influence the game. My thoughts are simple…three good refs, such as Ellsworth, Kiesker and Noonan and it would be perfect. Three officials who are not so good and I could see a recipe for disaster. I’m hoping this stays away from Missouri.
As I said earlier I had arranged for the girls to take in a UNC practice. When we arrived at practice the UNC girls were warming up for a scrimmage. What a treat they had arranged for us. UNC’s top eleven were going to scrimmage some former and current players. Some of the former players were current and former national team players Cindy Parlow, Cat Reddick, Kendall Fletcher and they were competing against some current national team players such as Heather O’Rielly. You couldn’t buy a ticket to a game like that and our twenty girls were the only people watching.
During and after the scrimmage Bill Palladino, pictured above with Mike, who is a UNC ass’t and the ass’t coach in the last world cup, Chris Ducar (UNC goalkeeper coach), Jordan Walker (Anne Felt’s roomate who never lost a game she started at UNC), Kendall Fletcher and others all came and talked to our players. After the scrimmage Bill Palladino gave the girls a tour of some of the facilities at UNC, he has coached all of the best this country has ever produced as he has been an assistant at UNC for twenty five years and a world cup assistant as well. He is what I love about UNC soccer.
They took time out of their busy schedule and then thanked us for coming to watch them practice. They are every thing that is right about sports.
I believe any coach will tell you that if the players won’t play hard for each other or for you, no amount of talent can overcome that. We spent six full days together as a team, coaches and players, that might be the most important thing that came out of this trip. If we were close before, we are air tight now.
It was a great trip for our team, one that we are very lucky to have had the opportunity to take.
The above story was provided by Coach Mike Howard of the Rolla Bulldogs, offering his experiences on the Spring Break trip you’ve already read about from his girls offerings. Thanks Coach!