For 2017-18, the Lady Spartans of Union welcomed a new season with a new head coach in Crystal Hill, her first at the high school level. Hill recently reflected on the experience and said she looks forward to a new season.
Fairly new to the coaching scene, Hill is a native of the Cumberland County area, where she started her coaching career a few years ago at Anne Chesnutt Middle. This past season at Union marked her first coaching spot at the high school level.
While she’s the high school coach, she still teaches at the middle school level, serving as Union Middle’s new P.E. and Health teacher.
Her reasoning for leaving her hometown of Fayetteville, where she grew up, and coming to Sampson County was simple.
“I ended coming to Sampson County because my husband actually works in Clinton and I decided it’d be great to work in the same county. When I got to Union, they asked me if I wanted to coach and I said sure because I really love coaching and it’s a lot of fun,” said Hill.
While the soccer team struggled in Hill’s first year at the helm, going winless, the program is admittedly in a building phase. Hill pointed out that while she had some returners, she had some fresh players to the team with little experience and some who had never played soccer at all. However, she noted the growth of her team as the season progressed and Hill understands the importance of that.
“Coming in as the new head coach, it was a bit of a challenge. I’m new to area and the school and didn’t know anybody. That and coming into a program that was building up again was tough,” said Hill. “Though I definitely saw us improve as the year went on, it was learning experience for all of us. But I saw us grow together as a team and that’s what’s important.”
Now that Hill has gotten her feet wet in leading the Spartans, she already has plans in mind going forward.
“The first thing that I’ve always done since coaching is establish equal respect from everyone. Without that respect you can’t expect your players to follow you and believe in you,” she said. “After that, I set my ground rules and what I expect from my team during the course of the season.”
“Then I assess the skills of my team and by skill I don’t only mean their skills as players or athletes,” added Hill. “I assess our team by interacting with the team, testing to see how our morale is and how well we play together, if at all. That’s what’s most important, because if we can’t play together as a unit and have confidence in one other as a team, then you can’t accomplish much.”
With her first year behind her, Hill is ready to meet with coaches over theoffseason in preparation for another season.
“I plan to meet with the other coaches and decide a starting point going forward. In Cumberland County, our kids weren’t allowed to lift weights or anything like that, but around here we can,” stated Hill. “That’s also important because in soccer you need to train your whole body, so I definitely plan to do offseason workouts in the weight room and work on building our endurance also.”
“It’s all about figuring out that starting point and doing what we can to get our kids excited about next season,” she concluded.