Region champions, competitive rivalries, top rankings, deep postseason runs and state championship contenders have become annual events for multiple high school soccer programs in Murray and Whitfield counties.
It’s time for Dalton State College to join in with its own soccer success.
The University System of Georgia Board of Regents has approved men’s and women’s soccer programs at Dalton State. The inaugural seasons for both teams is in fall 2015. Home matches will be at the Lakeshore Park soccer complex.
Similar to men’s basketball, women’s volleyball and the six other sports that came before soccer, the process from now to the first match is a long one.
But many believe adding soccer will be a boon to both the college and to area soccer players who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to play collegiately.
Before the match begins
Dalton State relaunched athletics this school year after a three-decade era absence. The Roadrunners led off with men’s basketball and golf, competitive cheerleading, men’s and women’s cross country and tennis, and women’s volleyball as its eight-sport package. Dalton State athletic director Derek Waugh said in a previous story about Dalton State’s first year of athletics and the program’s future that soccer would be the next sport added. He said the college made a request to the Board of Regents for approval, which came Monday in a letter.
Waugh recalls a feasibility study the college conducted before he became athletic director. The study included a plan for which sports to start with and which ones to delay. He said the study proposed starting soccer right away.
“It was at the top because it’s inexpensive and when they did the feasibility study I think they looked at local talent,” Waugh said, noting the lack of a home venue played a big role in the delay.
Basketball uses the trade center, cross country doesn’t necessarily need a home course, golf uses The Farm in Rocky Face, tennis uses the Lakeshore Park courts and volleyball used the Mack Gaston Community Center and Dalton High School courts this year with plans to use the renovated, on-campus Bandy Gymnasium going forward.
“With basketball in the trade center and volleyball playing in campus, I made those a priority,” Waugh said. “With soccer, we didn’t have something readily available.
“I think the timing is perfect. I’m glad we didn’t start off with soccer.”
Waugh estimated a soccer program costs between $2,500 and $3,000 per team to start, excluding coaching salaries. He also estimated all sports started this past year are either on par or cheaper, with the exception of men’s basketball.
He said the school is adding sports at a quicker pace than most new programs in large part because of private financial help.
“Without the private funding, I don’t think this would be possible,” Waugh said of starting soccer. “... I think the community support has made this possible.”
With the green light to begin building a program, Dalton State’s next step is finding head coaches. Waugh said the searches will start immediately with a hopeful completion by the end of the calendar year, when the college soccer season concludes. Once coaches are in place, the next task is recruiting eligible high school seniors and college transfers for the soccer squads. Along with that, the program also must complete its schedule, aside from the already-set matches with fellow Southern States Athletic Conference teams.
Waugh said he won’t limit himself to a coach from any specific level. He didn’t eliminate the possibility of hiring a coach from a local high school.
“I think any time you limit yourself to a coach, you’re being short-sighted,” he said. “We’ll get a good coach; I don’t care if it’s from high school or college.”
Whoever is hired, they certainly won’t need to search far to find skilled players, even ones not yet in high school.
“That person will probably start to do camps to recognize kids and will even recognize a kid before high school,” Dalton boys coach Matt Cheaves said. “That’s a huge positive — interaction with the community through camps and stuff — that will come from this.”