It’s rare for girls to join the Plano soccer team with years of playing experience.
Many don’t have any at all.
That makes his job as coach even more challenging for Ben Sperry, who often is teaching more about how to play the game then how to win them.
This spring, the Reapers have been blessed with a roster that returns completely intact. Whether or not that results in more wins isn’t a sure thing, but it means that Sperry has another year to work with these girls.
And a handful of victories would definitely be nice.
“The program has been around for 12 years and we continue to not really have a development program,” Sperry said. “There’s no middle school soccer and we just started an intramural after school program last school year and that’s the closest to a middle school program we’ve gotten. So most of the girls are just learning to play soccer when they come to high school.”
While many of Plano’s opponents boast rosters filled with girls who have been playing the game since they could walk, Plano finds itself starting anew each year. What’s more is that while good athletes may transition from other sports and gradually become good soccer players, it rarely comes naturally since sports like basketball, softball and volleyball focus so much on the use of the hands.
“Soccer is so different so we’re asking the girls to do a whole new coordination thing,” Sperry said. “So half of the problem is we’re trying to teach 14, 15 and 16-year-old kids how to now do stuff with your feet, to address the ball at the high school level.”
So while so much focus in athletics is on winning, Sperry’s coaching strategy is more on the progress his kids can make in four short years than how many wins they can collect.
“We’ve been able to make a lot of progress from when they come in as freshmen through their senior year,” he said. “Because when you really think about it, their soccer experience in four years is really just seven months of soccer, which isn’t very much.”
The Reapers have a few players with experience outside of high school soccer and they will look to lead them. That includes Aimee Hild, Lexie King, Katherine Jacobsen and fourth-year keeper Camryn Rydzewski.
“She’s a great goalie for us and a lot of schools say they have an awesome goalie, and I don’t doubt that, but she’s a really good one,”Sperry said. “She goes up against a lot more shots and last season had a 75 percent save percentage and made 166 saves.”
Hild and King played center back last year in Plano’s 4-4-2 system. Sperry said he might move King into a more offensive role as she’s coming off ankle surgery and he wasn’t entirely sure she’d be back. Hild has strong legs and took the majority of goal kicks a season ago.
Jacobsen has produced in a forward, center mid role, showing an ability to be able to distribute the ball, and likely will be counted up onto do the same.
“We’re looking at different measurements of success and trying to teach and learn and grow,” Sperry said. “We’d like to decrease the number of goals allowed, improve the number of goals we score and those kinds of things. We like to keep things light and fun and keep their spirits up while working hard.”