Gators persevered through difficult year

Published 8:29 am Monday, February 1, 2016

Perseverance was the epitome of Vicksburg’s boys soccer season.

A difficult season that included a coaching change and a long losing streak ended last week with a first-round playoff loss to Oxford. The Gators suffered from a lack of conditioning, a combination of inexperienced and seasoned talent, and communication problems on the field and off.

When assistant coach Kristen Williams was promoted to head coach at midseason — first-year coach Tyrone Hargro quit in November —she brought a new set of rules and structure to the team. Under her watch the boys couldn’t play if they didn’t practice and the language around the team became cleaner.

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“Once they saw (I) wasn’t going to budge and we’re going to have to be structured and follow the rules if we want to play, they were actually fine,” Williams said. “I had one to quit because he didn’t want me to correct him at all.”

It took about three weeks for the players and Williams to get on the same page, but once they became synced, she said the team improved with every game played.

“They started playing positions. It wasn’t an all over the field thing like it was when I first started,” Williams said. “Some of the boys were so complacent in where they were used to playing. If I pulled a forward back on defense they would feel like they were lost. I wanted them to be able to perform on any level.”

Williams said, specifically for her juniors and seniors, she wanted her players to become more flexible with the game because it would become more difficult to play on a collegiate level.

She added that even on a junior college level, second-year players hold the forward and striker positions. If a player only has experience in those positions, it’ll be harder to make the team if a school is looking for a defender.

The Gators also improved slightly on their communication on the field.

“At first they weren’t talking at all. Now they’re starting to communicate a little bit more, not as much as they needed to,” Williams said. “There was no cohesiveness either. Some of the players didn’t know each other and they hadn’t been around each other. That’s something I want to do next year, too, is just to do some bonding things in the spring and the summer.”

Throughout the season, one of the biggest hindrances for the Gators was the lack of conditioning. Williams set up workouts involving running bleachers in Memorial Stadium, suicides on the football field, planks and other forms of long distance running.

She also has plans to partner with Warren Central for twice-a-week scrimmages this offseason.

While the Gators only won one early-season game at Lawrence County and tied with McComb, Williams will have a solid foundation in her first full season. With an entire year to prepare for team rules and develop strategies, Williams has begun to get the ball rolling.

“I created bylaws and I created a code of conduct and I created a student athlete contract. They will have organized tryouts, which will start Feb. 29. I want to have a parent meeting,” Williams said. “My main goal is increasing the leadership on the team so they can be school leaders and I want to expose them more as far as the school so we can have a better fan base.”