The VSU women’s soccer team head coach Melissa Heinz and her assistant Erin Foote have high expectations for their team’s first season ever.
Coach Heinz will be coaching the first ever women’s soccer team at Valdosta State. However, starting up a new team isn’t a first for Heinz’s. She’s started up programs at William Carey University, Birmingham Southern and Winthrop.
“It’s comfortable because I have done it,” Heinz said. “I’ve learned from some things and I definitely didn’t know I would be doing this again, but it’s easier now.”
She has learned and gained wisdom from her last coaching tenet at Winthrop. Since being introduced as head coach, she works day and night in attempt to put together a successful team. Heinz and Foote have held open try-outs where they detect useful talent for this upcoming season.
Additionally, Heinz recruited potential players from several tournaments that occured last year. She traveled to such places as Las Vegas and Texas to acquire better methods of recruiting players.
“When I first got here there were mainly high school games and not as many club games,” Heinz said. “So I went to every game that anyone every sent me an email to go see. I hit every high school in the state of Georgia.”
As of now there are 19 committed players to the team. They were recruited from states such as South Carolina, Canada, Colorado and Wisconsin.
As the team takes on their first competitive opponents this season, Heinz stresses leadership to her team. She understands that leadership is a huge part in the success of a new team. Heinz blamed lack of leadership as a reason for not winning as many games at Winthrop in her previous years coaching.
“It was a never-ending challenge at Winthrop because we were so young,” Heinz said.
Here, leadership is something I wanted to figure out as we prepare for this first season.”
Heinz knew it wouldn’t be an easy task to create a competitive team so quickly at VSU, so she brought along Foote to be her assistant coach.
Heinz coached Foote on the U13 team in Mississippi when Foote was only 12-years-old. Because Foote’s father was an active marine core, she was eventually transferred to Okinawa
Going to middle school and high school overseas, Foote had the joy and experience of playing soccer in Hong Kong, Australia and Japan.
When Foote was ready to play collegially, Heinz coached her at Winthrop for the next four years. Over the years, the duo has built a great relationship, not only as co-workers but as good friends.
“She was a captain for Winthrop,” Heinz said. “This is her first position as a coach on the college level. She has taught club and high school soccer teams, though. I like her being organized and her leadership as a captain. The kid is the hardest worker I’ve been around- adult-wise and kid-wise.”
Heinz and Foote are determined to stay away from the usual first-year team expectations. They will dive into the season with their heads held high, not focusing on the fact that this is their first season. Foote is ready to take on her role and begin her college coaching job.
“I love it here,” Foote said. “The people are just wonderful. I have felt welcome since day one. They are excited about the program. They are excited to have me and they are excited to have Coach Heinz.”
Since playing under Heinz for so long, Foote knows the system and said it will be an easy transition.
“The hard work is what we are looking for,” Foote said. “Coach Heinz and I are working hard and we expect the same from the girls. We see the national tournament as our goal, but you know its baby steps. Ultimately, as long as they are working hard we will be good to go.”
The players are conditioning and training now, anxiously awaiting their first game.
“Expectations are high,” Heinz said. “We are going to be fighting for a trip to the national tournament our first year. Every player I recruit and everyone who is a part of this program knows the goal. The goal is to do whatever it takes to get to the national tournament. It’s a first-year program, but that is no excuse not to do well.”