Matt Abner has worked his way up the coaching ranks and will embark on a new journey this fall.
Abner, longtime youth soccer coach and administrator in both the Winchester Youth Soccer League and FC of Kentucky before taking over the boys and girls soccer teams at Clark Middle five years ago, was named girls soccer coach at George Rogers Clark High School Wednesday.
“They’ve had a good (feeder) program over the past few years and the FC of Kentucky really helped advance our girls and be successful,” he said. “We have a lot of good players coming up (in the FC of Kentucky) and in the middle school. We’re confident we’ll be able to continue with the success (of the program).”
Abner takes over for Jessica Laswell, whose contract wasn’t renewed for next season. Laswell compiled a 32-8-17 record in her three seasons as coach. Laswell guided the Lady Cardinals to back-to-back district championships during the past two years. Clark won the district and regional titles in 2011, advancing to the state Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history. The Lady Cards finished 9-11 last season and lost to Campbell County in the opening round of the 10th Region Tournament.
“I’m very excited,” he said. “I feel like I’m ready. I coached some of the girls before (in the recreational and select leagues) and I believe that going from the local leagues on to the competitive stage (has helped prepare me) and I’m ready.”
Although Abner’s coaching career began in the recreational leagues, the past five seasons as girls and boys coach at Clark Middle helped elevate his coaching skills to the next level.
“(Coaching) middle school really helped me to get ready,” he said. “I’ve always felt like as a coach I have done well in taking (over) a team and been successful at the select, competitive level. The middle school helped me with the organizational part and other aspects (of coaching) and what I will deal with at the high school.”
Abner was introduced to members of the team on Wednesday and is anxious to get started.
“It’s about the player, but it’s also about the school,” he said. “I don’t believe the player is bigger than the name on our jersey. Getting the players to play as a team is the biggest aspect I will bring (to the program). I see the programs that are successful and they are team-oriented more than any one player. I will try to enhance teamwork.”
He added that his team’s formations and style of play will be “set by what makes the team successful” and not by a single particular style of play set in stone.
“I don’t believe in just playing one style,” he said. “I believe in finding out what works for the girls and helps to become successful”
Abner said the team’s goal is to win the district and regional titles on a yearly basis.
“Those are the kinds of goals that I will try to set for them,” he said. “More than that, I want to the girls to be successful off the field – student first, make the grade and give them tools to move on to the next level. I would like to see more of the girls go on and play college soccer.”