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Some coaches stand apart

About 10 years ago, I was driving down the road when I got a call from Don Bohensky. Our youngest, Livia, was eight or nine at the time and had about four or five years of recreation soccer under her belt. She had followed in her sister May Melton’s footsteps and taken up the sport at four. We thought she was a pretty good player but, at that age, soccer is just slightly organized kickball featuring players with short attention spans running hither and yon chasing a soccer ball. I knew Don was a soccer coach and it turned out he was calling to ask if Livia would try out for a U10 girls academy team he was putting together. Academy soccer is basically like travel ball in baseball: better coaching, more emphasis on training and fundamentals and much higher levels of competition than in recreation soccer. ’Are you sure you have the right guy,’ I asked Don but he, indeed, did want Livia to try out. I learned later that his recreation team had given up only two goals the entire previous season and Livia had scored both of them. She made the team and our select soccer journey began. It has been one heck of a ride. I think our family has been to every soccer field in Georgia over the years. Don put countless hours into his team. I am sure he spent a lot of his own money, too. Managing a bunch of girls from their pre-teen years and into high school age is no easy task. Dealing with their parents is also an ongoing challenge. Don met both. Pike’s soccer complex doesn’t even have a paved parking lot but Don and the world’s best soccer mom Sharmaine Shavers won a contest that brought Olympian Joy Fawcett to Zebulon to spend a day training and hanging out with our girls. We played all over the place. Don shepherded the girls from small fields to regulation pitches and through growth spurts that would transform what had been an extremely athletic young lady into an absolute klutz for a month or two. He imbued a love of soccer and strong fundamentals into each one. The PC Fury were a delight. Don guided that team through Academy and into Athena play where they rapidly improved and moved from D division to A division. Some players came and went but the core group stayed together, played as a unit and drew the attention of other coaches. Those other coaches did what coaches do. They poached talent. Eventually, the team split up. All the individual players continued to excel on other clubs. I still contend that the original Fury, had it stayed intact, would have beaten any A team once the girls reached U15 or so but that did not come to pass. All the girls who stayed with the sport are now the stars of their high school teams and have drawn notice for their skills honed from a young age under the watchful eye of Coach Don. Last Wednesday was National Signing Day. It drew great attention due to Georgia’s Kirby Smart reeling in the top ranked football signing class in America but it was also signing day for soccer. Six of the original Fury signed that day. Josephine ‘˜Bean’ Butler will play at Valdosta State. Paige Wood signed with Shorter College. (See their signing photos on page 1B). Alex Chapman signed with West Georgia. Brooke Fitzhugh signed with North Georgia. Whitney Hancock will continue her career at Reinhardt University. Kaitlin O’Connor will play at Piedmont College. Our goalkeeper Brooke Shavers will sign with a major college any day now and Bailie Garland is still weighing her options but will sign at some point. Brooke Biggs, who was a little older, is already an integral part of the team at Gordon State College. That’s nine college athletes out of the original group of 12 or 13. Other girls could have chosen to continue as student athletes as well but have decided to just be college students. We all knew the Fury girls were a special group. We all knew Coach Don was a special mentor. Always dedicated to his girls, he was on hand for all of last week’s signings, welcomed by the families and rightly so. Some coaches just stand apart from the herd. Coach Don is one of those. His Fury girls are a testament to that. Walter Geiger is the editor and publisher of the Pike County Journal Reporter and The Herald Gazette.

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