New boys soccer coach plans to compete, come fall

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

Al Grove has been named Sweet Home High School head boys soccer coach, replacing Karl Schmidtman, who is leaving the district.

Grove, who teaches metal shop at the high school, said he plans to field a team that will be “competitive.”

“I don’t want to say wins or losses, but you’re going to see us playing competitive soccer,” he said. “Each of the kids will improve as individuals and as a team. Hopefully, our record is going to reflect that.”

This is Grove’s first time coaching high school soccer, but he’s coached every level below high school and he’s coached football, tennis and wrestling, the latter as an assistant, at the high school level.

“Al Grove is an experienced soccer coach,” Athletic Director Larry Johnson said. “He has a vision for developing our program, and he really believes in building from the lower levels and up.

“He emphasizes pride in the program and academics, Johnson said. “He’ll work well with students, parents and community members. He has a track record of success in everything he’s done.”

Grove said the main thing he plans to emphasize up front is the need for commitment to winning and being successful. He’s started by establishing soccer games on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. for those who want to play in the fall, though those who just want to play are welcome too. Games will be held on the high school fields unless softball games conflict, in which case the soccer will move to the junior high field.

That brings up another point for Grove: He wants to develop a field more completely dedicated to soccer than the current facilities, which also are used for football and softball. He said he’d like to convert the area northwest of Husky Stadium, which is currently vacant, into a soccer facility.

“We need to get more field space that could be used by the high school and the rest of the community,” he said. “All we’d need to do is put some topsoil down, grade it and seed it.”

Grove said he’s optimistic about the group of “20-some” players who’ve told him they plan to return in the fall. Last year’s varsity included eight freshmen, who will come in as sophomores with that varsity experience under their belts. He said he thinks they will blossom this next season, particularly if they don’t have to be leaders on the team like some found themselves doing last year.

“As much as anything, I saw they’re used to playing with confidence, not having to be leaders,” he said. The sophomores include last season’s Offensive Player of the Year Dakotah Keys and Grove’s own twin sons, Matt and Mitch.

He said it will be important to establish connections with the Boys and Girls Club and the junior high programs, which have been run under the auspices of the Boys and Girls Club the last couple of years.

He said he also wants to start running soccer camps as soon as possible.

“It helps my kids to have camps when they have to explain (how to play soccer) to someone else,” he said.

He predicted that if the team improves, community support will also increase.

“I want to build the community fan base,” he said. “I think as we work on improving as a team, the support will improve.”

So now, he said, the focus is on making sure players are getting plenty of touches on the soccer ball.

“It they want to get better, they have to play,” Grove said. ” My plans for the team are to put a lot more time into playing. We have kids playing basketball and baseball now. Those aren’t the ones I’m talking about. I’m talking about kids sitting at home, watching TV or at the lake. They need to be coming down.

“As they develop confidence, expectations will rise. We have a good group coming back, some young kids.

“That means I’m going to have my work cut out for me too, just like the kids.”