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Dallas Soccer News - UIL high school soccer state 2015, Kennedale, Grapevine, Sam Houston

State soccer lineup evidence of Tarrant County area’s growth

Published 4/15/2015 12:08:58 PM by Shawn Smajstrla from Star Telegram
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Of the 24 teams in the UIL Soccer State Championships that begin Wednesday in Georgetown, three call Tarrant County home. It’s the most ever for the Fort Worth area. While this area has produced some strong teams over the years, the growing numbers indicate that soccer supremacy may no longer reside in concentrated pockets.

Nine Tarrant County teams qualified for the regional tournaments last weekend, with five advancing to their respective finals. The Arlington Sam Houston boys, Grapevine girls and Kennedale girls all earned trips to the state tournament in Georgetown as Region I representatives.

First-year Grapevine coach Steven McBride grew up in this area, but most recently coached in the Austin area and before that in West Texas. Having gained multiple perspectives, he always knew he wanted to return to North Texas to coach. “The Metroplex has always sort of been the flagship as far as the high school landscape for soccer,” he said.

Sam Houston coach Joey Rodriguez also coached out west before moving to Justin Northwest nine years ago. He has spent the last six years in Arlington and has seen the local soccer landscape even out.

“I just think now that soccer is more developed here,” he said. “We’re getting more coaches that are soccer-specific, and now we’re starting to see some powerhouses. Schools south of I-30 are now relevant, as opposed to a few years ago when it was just Southlake and Coppell.”

Ask coaches the biggest catalyst for soccer’s growth in the area and you’ll find a theme that Rodriguez touched on: coaches.

“It really comes down to people who have played the game wanting to come back and continue to promote the game,” McBride said. “You see a lot of ex-high school players that are now in position to become high school coaches. It’s really changed the landscape and legitimized the sport as a whole. Rarely do you come across a high school team that doesn’t have a soccer coach.”

Kennedale coach Michael Strange points out that Tarrant County has always been fertile ground for players, and in the proper environment, big things are possible. “The school districts are hiring better coaches, coaches that played high school and college soccer,” he said. “So I think you’re starting to see the fruits of that. You get kids that are talented, and you get a coach that knows how to coach them.”

If it’s true that success breeds success, then the growing competitiveness in area soccer should result in even better teams moving forward. Kim Wallace, coach of the Mansfield Lake Ridge girls, one of Tarrant County’s regional qualifiers, subscribes to this theory.

“It really challenges the girls and gives them a chance to get better,” Wallace said. “I’m glad the girls get a chance to go out and play against other high level girls. We’re fielding some good teams in this area, which I think is awesome.”

Success at the state level will likely boost interest in the game even more, but these coaches see benefits beyond playoff runs and soccer trophies.  “The hallways sound different than they did in the fall,” McBride said. “You’re really starting to see the kids excited about being there. That’s always a great environment to be in. You could say there’s state fever. Monday was amazing. It was electric. Kids were talking about it that aren’t soccer kids. This is something that our school as a whole can grow from.”

“I think it’s huge,” Rodriguez added. “Our football team made the playoffs and it’s been a while since they did that. Just the buzz and excitement over that, and now that we were fortunate to get to the state tournament, it’s even more apparent how important that is to a school and can bring a school together. It really could help turn our school around and make it successful, not only on the field but also academically. Now you have a sense of pride. Kids love going to Sam now, they’re proud of it and I think that’s a great feeling.”

Label: UIL high school soccer state 2015, Kennedale, Grapevine, Sam Houston
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