Danna Seigle's team

Six questions with Locust Grove head coach Danna Seigle

The season may be on hold for the Locust Grove Lady Wildcats soccer program but with a 3-0 region rank from this season before novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) put a damper on things, the season was positive for head coach Danna Seigle.

Seigle may have been sitting at home during the stoppage of this season but that didn’t stop her from answering some questions related to the season. Like how the program is adapting to the stoppage of play or how she helps the seniors stay level.

Even with the future being uncertain, Seigle works hard to keep the program’s hard-working athletes calm.

Darius Goodman: This isn’t how the season was expected to go. But from the beginning to the stoppage. How was it?

Danna Seigle: Well, we are 3-0 in the region, so that’s positive; besides Ola, however, we have yet to face our toughest region competitors. I’m sure that everyone agrees how devastating the stoppage has been to momentum and to morale, though. One of the greatest surprises has been the strength of our freshman. While we anticipated midfielders Alli Jones and Ava Veliz to contribute substantially as freshmen—and they definitely have—defender Alex Olszewski has been a bright and unexpected light in this new group.

DG: Who showed the most improvement?

DS: I’ve been really impressed at the improvement from our junior keeper, Olivia Potts, as well as utility player Izzy Taylor, who is only entering her second season of soccer. Midfielder Hannah Royer was our top utility player last season, but with one club season now under her belt, she has proven to be even more of an asset on the field.

Center back Meghan Hoopingarner has always been a solid player and was a standout last year, but is proving to be an even stronger threat this season. Center back Raegan Kirkland has played phenomenally well — although a very strong player last year, she was fresh off of an ACL surgery that slowed her down considerably. She’s a powerhouse all the way this year!

Striker McKay Seigle continues to do beautiful things with the ball, especially since she entered the season with the confidence her skills deserve. I would be remiss not to recognize our newest player, Mary Katherine “MK” Presley, though! She’s a stellar athlete who made a name for herself in both flag football and basketball and was convinced by friends to try out for soccer with no experience other than as a four-year-old.

She’s proof that hard work, athleticism, and coachability can contribute far more to playing time than skill and experience. Unfortunately for us, she’s a senior, because I don’t ever want her off of the field!

DG: How do you work to get them to the next level when they can’t showcase on the field?

DS: I wish I knew the answer to this. When it comes to teenage girls, the emotional side plays a huge role in performance. Given the circumstances, their emotions are currently all over the place, especially our seniors.

As of this, the rest of their season is unknown. Will they have the opportunity to play again? Will they have a run at state? Or have they already played their last game? Their hearts are breaking with uncertainty and fear and I struggle with how to help them through it.

We met virtually as a team this week to address the emotional side. I wanted them to be able to catch up, ask questions (to which I sadly have little or no answers), share concerns, and, quite frankly, vent. They deserve to be upset. But we’ve taken the time to grieve what is lost and now it is time to move forward with a plan.

Just like the adjustment to now teaching from home, this plan is taking some work and some time to develop. But hey! If you have any great advice or wisdom to pass on for a situation like this, I’m all ears!

Frankly, we needed a little break due to pesky injuries, so a few days hasn’t been terrible; however, sitting idle for any longer benefits no one. We’ve discussed the need to remain active, stay fit, strengthen weak areas (especially the knees), and get lots of touches on the ball while we are on this mandated break.

I will be sharing a strength and conditioning plan and have asked the girls to hold each other accountable. As for maintaining or improving technical skills — I don’t know if every girl even has her own ball to work on them at home. unfortunately, this is the reality with soccer in Henry County.

We pray that the schools are reopened on April 1st and the season resumes, but if that is the case, it certainly will not be a seamless restart. The girls will likely have too many games in too few days, which will take a toll on the teenage body if it is ill-prepared. My prayer is that they truly understand how important it is to prepare the mind and body for what (we hope) is to come.

DG: Tell me about your leaders. Who’s helped lead the team?

DS: As expected, our leadership tends to come from our handful of experienced club players, but especially from vocal Seniors Raegan Kirkland & McKay Seigle, as well as freshman Alli Jones.

While not quite as vocal as we would like, our senior keeper Gabby Cain is so strong and steady in the goal that she provides a level of leadership of her own; she’s a wall back there, which fuels the team with confidence defensively.

DG: When the future is this uncertain, what can you do?

DS: Besides hope and prayer, the next course of action would be preparation. We can take care of our minds and bodies. I’ve always promoted self-development and filling our minds with positive energy and thoughts, and often share inspiring podcasts with the team, but I think it will be even more important to utilize these resources now.

We’re taking the steps to prepare our bodies, as well, with guidance from our athletic trainer Kelsy Ney, as well as others I’m reaching out to in both high school and college athletics.

DG: Is it helpless knowing the seniors’ time is running out and it’s not the fault of the school?

DS: The seniors do feel shocked, heartbroken, and helpless, but they are also mature enough to realize the bigger picture and are learning to heal over time. Much like waiting for that college acceptance letter, they just want to know. Good news would be wonderful, bad news will be devastating, but no news is painful in its own way.

As a mom to a senior, I did not fully understand what they were feeling until at least a couple of days in — a fact that I am not proud of but can now admit. All I know to do is listen without judgment, and offer guidance when appropriate… I cannot rely on experience because I have none in a situation like this. Few do. I really think most just need people in their corner to whom they feel safe venting to and a lot of hugs.

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