At the time of this article, the Sea Turtles had yet to compete in the weekend tournament. The tournament is now over, and results will be included in the Wednesday edition of the Troup County News.
Shane Pulliam’s summer soccer sessions kicked off Tuesday and continued Thursday for the second day of practice. Starting at 5:30 for children under thirteen and at 7:15 for teenagers, the two camps prepared for their upcoming 3×3 and 7×7 tournaments, respectively.
Seven children showed up for the 5:30 practice, leaving just enough room for two 3×3 teams. Some were familiar with the program and had spent considerable time under Coach Pulliam.
For others, however, it was like new.
To help close the skill gap, Pulliam started the young group with juggles before teaching the children about turns. Children who had studied under the coach before treated the lesson as a chance for review and practice while newcomers learned a valuable new skill.
Pulliam integrated more advanced lessons into the practice to provide a challenge to all players. The last half of practice focused on using turns to escape defenders to score a goal.
It was something the young athletes struggled to do. Unaccustomed to playing in the heat, the children showed a lack of focus that Pulliam warned would lead to a blowout defeat if they couldn’t show more commitment.
Pulliam opened the last twenty minutes of practice to a real 3×3 game in hopes that they would be able to put the skills they had learned together.
With the addition of new players, the game had more errors than Coach Pulliam would have liked. However, with some students attending only their first or second session with the long-time coach, it was in some ways to be expected.
Pulliam attributed the lack of enthusiasm, in part, to lower turnout. Having more players, he says, allows different levels of teams to be created, and all players have to compete to be able to start.
With just enough students to form two 3×3 teams Thursday, the children felt no pressure to stay focused on the game. After their upcoming 3×3 this weekend, however, the children may learn the value of commitment, as they travel to Oconee County to face off against some of the state’s better 3×3 teams.
Pulliam remains hopeful, as the number of club soccer teams in the county continues to rise. With a growing interest in soccer in the community, higher turnout to the soccer sessions is highly likely. This will help foster the more competitive environment Pulliam believes is essential to success.
The two 3×3 teams Thursday made up in talent what they lacked in experience. As the summer season progresses, the young athletes are sure to improve as they begin to meld their talent with their ever-growing experience. It helps, too, to have a coach like Pulliam. With a coaching resume starting in 1993 and including founding the Troup High program as well as coaching for the University of Florida, Pulliam has twenty-five years of experience coaching at all levels of the sport and boasts an impressive record in all variations of the game, including 3×3.
Pulliam’s expertise was felt at LaGrange this past season as he led the Grangers to the second round of state and increased their offensive efficiency. Several members of the Granger varsity team showed up for the second summer session Thursday, starting at 7:15.
The turnout was higher for the teenage group, with the majority of athletes having been coached by Pulliam for the past year. They weren’t all, however, LaGrange students.
Instead of a 3×3, the second practice was intended to be a 7×7. The teen group also prepared for their upcoming tournament game, and Coach Pulliam remains confident that his squad can reach at least the semifinals in the tournament.
Dubbed the “Sea Turtles,” the team got a special treat, as Pulliam brought with him the jerseys for this year’s team. The jerseys feature a bright blend of blue and green, with a turtle logo on the front and a creative pattern that resembles both a turtle shell and a soccer ball on the back.
Pulliam first started designing the impressive jerseys when he accepted the job at LaGrange High School last summer, stating that he knew instantly what he wanted to name his summer team.
The Sea Turtle’s coach allowed two players to model the new jerseys Thursday. Pulliam explained that he chose the bright color combination so that the players can be easily recognized when they travel for their tournaments.
The Sea Turtles travel to Oconee County Saturday, and those wishing to attend the event are encouraged to bring a tent for shade. The schedule has the Sea Turtles playing games at 11 AM, 12 Noon, and 3 PM against Archer, Hart County, and Habersham, respectively.
Thursday’s practice for the teenaged Sea Turtles consisted of one game. Intended to be 7×7, the game was modified a bit because they didn’t reach the required fourteen players needed for two 7×7 teams. Pulliam explained that a ball must hit the inside side net in order to score in 7×7. Two squads—a yellow and a blue team— played two halves of competitive soccer.
Now they are looking to place in the upcoming Oconee Cup.
Sea Turtle summer sessions are every Tuesday and Thursday starting at 5:30 PM and 7:15 PM.
The author of this article can be reached via email at jboggs@troupcountynews. net.