Monday marked the first day that area coaches were able to meet with their teams for in-person practice sessions. With several coronavirus-related restrictions still in place, these sessions were largely focused on strength and conditioning, but regardless of the work being done, the fact that teams can once again gather in person is a huge step forward, and it goes a long way in providing some hope for the upcoming fall sports season.
Among those teams getting back together for the first time Monday was the Whitley County High School varsity boys soccer team. A large group of eager athletes showed up to the Whitley County soccer complex to hear their new head coach, Michael Branham, discuss his plans for the future, as well as how the Colonels will need to conduct team business in the days ahead.
Branham, a former WCHS soccer player himself, has coached at the elementary and middle school levels in recent years. He has also served as an assistant at the varsity level for the past three seasons. Now he is taking on the role of the third head coach in program history, replacing former seven-year head coach Jarred Earnest, and he is very excited about the opportunity.
“I have been trying to help grow this program as a whole,” Branham explained. “I want to see large numbers, and more youth involvement. I would like to bring back some of the things that we were doing when I played here, but also continue to build on some of the things that we’ve been doing recently.”
Among some of the changes that Branham is currently overseeing is the implementation of new technology that will expand the usefulness of game film in normal, week-to-week preparations. He is also looking into getting some new practice gear for his players, and he is happy to see upgrades being made to the soccer facility’s locker room area.
As for how the team is feeling right now, Branham said, “I think they are eager and excited for the upcoming season. We should be able to build on what we accomplished last year (11-6 overall record), but my main goal is to be able to win that game in the district tournament that will send us on to region.”
Speaking about how he is approaching the task of conducting team activities in the era of COVID-19, Branham explained, “I’ve been trying to communicate with everyone through some different means, and I’m encouraging kids to come out and give soccer a try any time that I have the opportunity. We’re following all of the guidelines – doing temperature checks, social distancing and breaking up into groups. I am just doing my part to try to keep everyone safe.”
Looking ahead to the fall, assuming a season will take place as planned, Branham said, “I’m pretty excited about it. We have a big group of seniors coming in. We should be a deep team overall, and we should have the experience in place from top-to-bottom. I think we will surprise some people, and really be able to hold our own.”