Kicking It Up a Notch

Season after season, defeat after defeat, the Cedar Shoals High School girls soccer team hasn’t had the best run in recent years. 

Returning for his second season, Cedar Shoals girls soccer coach Joshua West is reaching for new ways to help improve the team. West helps the girls improve their soccer skills while also making sure they stay up to date with their studies and grades. 

“I’m driving a hard bargain. They have to stay for study hall every single day, and we do conditioning five days a week, for three months. During the summer, we did soccer camps, and the girls are participating in an Athens United training season in the fall,” West said. 

“Coach West has been focusing on a lot of our weaknesses, including communication, overall positioning, the purposes of each individual play around the team, and also our fitness,” said senior Morgan Frankowiak, winger.

West is a former division one soccer player. He played as forward at William and Mary all four years of college, while also studying Kinesiology. West graduated from William and Mary in 2015. After his career as a player came to a close, he decided he wanted to teach and coach. 

“I always knew I enjoyed working with the youth. Coaching is just a great vessel for me to be able to work with them and know what I’m talking about,” said West. 

The Lady Jags have struggled for a while. They haven’t won a game in the past five years. Every now and then the girls come close to a victory but haven’t gotten one yet. Last season, during the first game, they tied Prince Avenue 0-0.

West blames a lack of commitment for the losing record. The team scored zero points last season because the dedication from the girls was low. No one likes to lose, especially after putting in so much hard work.

“Having people commit will be imperative for our success. We won’t be able to do it if the sophomores, juniors, and freshmen this year that have been buying in and doing the little things correctly are saying, ‘man, it didn’t work last year, let’s not do it,’ and they don’t commit,” West said.  “A part of making the team attractive is we have to start winning, we need to no longer have the attitude, ‘low is us, we’re Cedar Shoals, we’re supposed to lose,’ and that’s tough. We work hard, but try and keep it positive.” 

Besides the obvious reasons, West is trying to improve the team so that incoming freshmen will want to join and commit. 

“The growth from a lot of the girls has been fantastic this year. Specifically, some of the younger cats have really bought in. I think they’ve seen and they’ve heard from some of the seniors that were like, ‘man, if we were able to do this, that or the other, or if I could have played year-round, I think we would have been so much better,” said West.

“I think the freshmen will be way more committed than before Coach West was here because I think they will realize that we are actually getting better even after one year and they’ll want to play,” Frankowiak said.

As much as West wishes to improve the soccer team right away, it takes time and effort. 

“We’ve preached that it’s a process, we’ve preached that it’s not going to be an overnight thing, that even though they have done three months of conditioning every single day, and even though they’re practicing every single day for two hours, and I’m drilling them and we’re working, that we still might lose every single game, but that you have to be committed, and you have to do the right thing,” said West. 

The girls believe the strategies West is using are really helping them get better.

“He says, ‘you have to put in the commitment if you want to get better.’ He’s pushing us to get better. He’s encouraging us to play not only during the season but offseason also, and it really is making us better. I give props him because we got miles better than we were last year,” said junior Mounina Ba, defense.

The motivation West is giving the girls seems to be working. He started a point system for rewards. Whenever one of the girls accomplished a header or performed something impressive they earned a point. At the end of the season West bought the athlete with the most points any item $70 or less.

“So everybody was saying, ‘this is stupid,’ but I guess that it was just another way of motivating us. I thought, ‘whatever, I’m not going to win,’ but in the end I did, and Coach West bought me a $70 hoodie,” Ba said. “The way he coaches, obviously he’s doing something right. I hope he’s sticking around for a long time.”

West isn’t the only point of motivation; the players also help each other out.

“The girls are always just trying to push each other up. If you mess up, they won’t take it out on you.  They help you and that’s what keeps us going,” said senior Marilyn Alva, defense.