Starting fresh is nothing new for Thunder Mountain sports this school year, and the brand-new Falcons girls' soccer team is the latest sports program to open its inaugural season.
Co-coach Kris Coffee said this season, which begins Friday with a friendly at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park versus the Juneau-Douglas JV team, will be a struggle, but it will prove to be a great learning experience in the end.
"My expectation is that we'll be a better team at the end of the season than we are now," she said. "We have no seniors, so my goal is to get everybody to come back next year and to get these girls to fall in love with soccer."
First things first for the Falcons, however. Coffee said she and fellow co-coach Moctar Diouf are focusing on making sure the team is fit for match-play.
"The physical demands on their bodies is new to them, and increasing their stamina has been a huge goal for us," Coffee said. "Just getting them to be able to play a full game is an accomplishment for some of them."
Aside from conditioning, Coffee stressed the importance of each student-athlete setting personal goals for the season.
"(They need) to focus on what we've worked on and set goals for themselves," she said. "At this point, we don't set goals of winning. Our goal is to execute something that we've done in practice, to progress and get better every game."
Right now, the team has 14 players with a possibility of adding one more. But with so few players, depth will be an issue the team faces each time out.
"It's going to be hard, there's no doubt about it. Our conditioning is probably our biggest weakness," Coffee said. "But they're going to perservere, whatever happens."
Though Coffee said many of the players are new to the sport, they have an idea of what is to come.
"I don't think that they have any false ideas or expectations," she said. "They know what's out there and they know it's going to take a lot of hard work. And they're up for the challenge.
"They know this is just the beginning, and we can only get better."
Regardless of game outcomes, Coffee said this is a great chance in general for some of the girls to step foot in the arena of competitive sports.
"It's a great opportunity for these girls to play sports because a lot of them haven't played before," she said. "They're brave, they're coming out and they're giving it a shot.
"I think that's what I'm really excited about - giving kids an opportunity to play."
With the inexperience of the girls on the team, Coffee said there are three elements in particular the coaches will teach throughout the season.
"It's conditioning, skill building and playing the game - we have to do all three. If we focus on just one, we'll lack in the other area," she said. "You have to teach them how to play because even if they've got the skills and they have good physical fitness, they still need to learn how to play. You can always play the game better."
With their first game coming Friday evening, the learning experience begins soon. And the Falcons are ready for the challenge.
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