Longtime WC boys soccer coach Greg Head takes reins of girls’ program

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, July 10, 2018

As the morning sun started to bake Warren Central’s soccer practice field Monday morning, coach Greg Head was a busy man. He bounced back and forth between two large circles of players, demonstrating a passing drill directing traffic from one drill to the next and giving as many helpful pointers as he could in one of the team’s final practices of the summer.

Head has done this plenty of times before. He’s about to enter his 11th season as Warren Central’s boys’ coach. This time, however, was different. He was working with the school’s girls team.

Head was hired in June to take over as coach of the Lady Vikes, giving him control of both of Warren Central’s varsity programs. It’s not an unusual setup in soccer — a number of teams employ only one coach for the girls and boys teams — but it is a challenge, and one that Head said he’s eager to tackle.

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“They called me into the office and I thought they wanted me to help find them a new coach. They asked me if I’d be interested in coaching both. My first instinct was to jump at the challenge, because I love challenges,” Head said, adding that before accepting the offer he did do some homework to ask other coaches how to make it work. “I know other teams do it, and I wanted to call some other teams that do both. What I don’t want is one team to suffer because of the other team.”

Head has a long track record of success since taking over as Warren Central’s boys coach in 2008. He’s built a consistent winner, with a 156-94-5 record, and hasn’t had a losing season since the 2008-09 squad finished 7-9-1.

The Vikings finished 18-4 last season and won the Division 4-6A championship for the first time in eight years. They were seconds away from reaching the Class 6A semifinals before giving up a late goal and eventually losing in overtime to Northwest Rankin in the second round of the playoffs.

The Lady Vikes, meanwhile, have struggled to find that sort of consistency either in their results or with their leadership. Their 10-9 finish last season marked the program’s first winning record since 2012-13. Head will be their sixth coach in the past 10 years.

The last coach, Jay Madison, was a part-time coach who resigned at the end of the season to focus full-time on his business. Madison led the Lady Vikes for three seasons.

Senior goalkeeper Layken Stockstill said having a familiar face with Head as coach has helped make the latest coaching switch go smoothly.

“It was good for us, because at least we knew who he was. A lot of us who are in high school already had a connection and a bond with Coach Head just from seeing him every day and him being at all of our games anyway,” Stockstill said. “It was a lot easier for us to come into this and want to work really hard because it was somebody that we knew was going to push us and somebody we trusted a lot. It was easier on us because we knew his track record and we knew how he works, and we’ve seen him practice with the boys so we knew exactly what we needed to do.”

Head’s job this summer has been to figure out where exactly the talent for the 2018-19 team lies and how to get the most out of it. The Lady Vikes have gone 3-1-2 — a record that includes a tie with Class 6A runner-up Northwest Rankin — in a pair of 7-on-7 tournaments.

Although Northwest Rankin’s summer team was missing several players, it’s still the same program that beat WC 11-0 last season.

While Head admits he’s mostly been experimenting with formations and lineups, he said one area of concern was glaringly obvious before the Lady Vikes ever hit the practice field.

“They had a winning season, but in the nine games they lost they got outscored 45-2. And that’s with having one of the best goalkeepers in the state (Stockstill) and one of the best backup goalkeepers in the state (Anna Hoben). The first thing I thought of was that we were going to have to revamp our defense, because when you get outscored 45-2 and you’ve got goalkeepers as good as these, something is wrong,” Head said. “So we are going to run a totally different defense. The boys have been successful with their defense. It’s kept us in a lot of games. So I think if I can take that and use the same type of defense with the girls we can be more successful and keep some of the pressure off of Layken.”

As the summer winds down, Head will transition from making adjustments on the field to tweaking Warren Central’s soccer program off of it. Logistical issues need to be figured out and sacrifices made in terms of time and other activities.

Head had been an assistant for WC’s fast-pitch softball team for a number of years, but said he is giving up that job. A third assistant coach will also join the soccer program along with current ones Tyler Scroggins and Amber Davis. The plan is for the assistant coaches to take a bigger role managing the junior high and junior varsity teams to allow Head to focus on the two varsity squads.

Another challenge — perhaps the biggest one, Head said — will come once the season starts and he has to manage himself as well as two teams.

“When I talked to other coaches, they’ve worked it out. The hardest thing is coaching two games back-to-back. I get into a game and my emotion gets kind of high and my adrenaline gets pumping,” Head said. “They said that’s the hardest thing, is shaking off the first game, especially if you have a tough game and have to turn around and have another tough game. They said it’s physically draining. We’ve got a tough schedule, and there’s going to be a lot of times when we have one tough game after another. I think that’s going to be the hardest part.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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