HEBRON ESTATES – Back home again.
That is the situation for first-year North Bullitt boys’ soccer coach Alex Young as he returns to the program in which he put in four years before graduating in 2007.
Young takes over a program that struggled at times when he was a player with numbers, victories and facilities. While there have been a number of improvements on those fronts in recent years, it is still a program with a lot of room for growth.
A year ago under former head coach Chris Bass, the Eagles won just two of 19 matches and both of the wins were over Bullitt Central.
Young recalls having a winless season when he was a player at North Bullitt. He also recalled playing on teams that were on the borderline of having to stop playing because of a lack of players.
On the player front, the Eagle program is in better shape now and has been for several years. Young reported early this week that the Eagles have 28 players in the program and that 24 of those are eligible for varsity action (several middle school students will only be able to play in junior-varsity matches).
Young said that he made it clear in the summer practices that he would expect a firm commitment from his players. He expected some to drop by the wayside early in the process, but that never happened.
“When I first met with them I told them that it would probably be a culture change from what they had been doing,” Alex said as his team went through stretching drills on Monday before a practice. “I’m a no-nonsense coach. I told them that if they weren’t going to work hard everyday and be part of a team and work together that I didn’t want you.
“I’d rather have 11 untalented players that will work as a team than players with talent who play for themselves,” the coach added. “I tried to run off a couple and to their credit, they stayed.”
What has changed in the time from when Young was a player to now, is that the Eagles have a much better post-season situation. Gone is the mega district with the Bullitt and Nelson County squads. Instead, the green and gold compete in a district with Bullitt Central, Evangel, Southern and Moore.
That is a much more manageable road to travel. Young’s goal for the first season is making it to the district final and earning a spot in the regional tournament for the first time in the program’s history.
“They know things have not gone well lately,” the coach said of the recent past. “It’s a good group of kids and they are taking to coaching well. I’m harder on them than any coach they have had and they have been good sports about it. They want to get better and be coached.”
Young wants this team to push forward and attack.
“Just like anything we want to be aggressive,” the coach said. “If we’re the more aggressive team we have a shot to win.”
Young doesn’t want to be too set in what the Eagles do. A little flexibility in style can be a good thing.
“It’s my team now,” Young said. “They have adapted well, but we still have a long way to go. I like these guys. It’s great to coach a group that is willing to learn.”
Young was part of the North Bullitt program as a player and after graduation, headed to Campbellsville University. His athletic direction changed drastically there as he walked onto the basketball team and played for the Tigers on the hardwood, not the pitch.
He is now doing his grad work through Cumberland University and has worked the past few years as a substitute teacher in the Bullitt County system. He had a long-term substitute position last year at North Bullitt and that is where he picked up on the opening for the soccer job.
During the winter, Young will be an assistant basketball coach at Brown High School in Jefferson County, a job he held last year.
Young inherited an older group of players. The roster includes 13 seniors.
While nothing is set in stone at this early date, Young did say that either Dakota McCreary or Chase Coomer, a pair of seniors, will be the team’s goalie. In front of the goalie, the coach expects seniors Tristan Miller and Jacob Gibson to play defense with other positions being filled from a group of veterans that includes seniors Jared Loudermilk, Andrew Kastelhun and sophomore Chandler James.
In the middle of the field, Young is looking for seniors Tyler Whitmer and Jakob Patterson to lead the attack while foreign exchange student Matos Bedendo will also see playing time along with senior Kyle Pursley and junior Alex Hawkins. Up front, the offense will be led by younger players as freshmen Jaren Lindsey and Alec Armstrong will move forward.
Young feels that he has a lot of depth in this year’s program.
“I’m pleased with the talent and work ethic,” the new coach said. “The talent is better than when I was here.”
North Bullitt scrimmaged Whitefield Academy this summer and came away with a tie.
The Eagles will open the season on Tuesday of next week when a trip to Bardstown and they will then travel to Seneca on Thursday. The big event of the first week will then come on Saturday when the Eagles host the Bullitt Cup. North Bullitt and Bullitt East will tangle at 8 a.m. and at noon the Eagles will play Bullitt Central. Bullitt East and Bullitt Central will play at 10 a.m.
That will be the only meeting with Bullitt East during the season.
“I don’t let them get too far ahead of themselves, but obviously they are excited about the Bullitt Cup,” Young said. “But at this point they just want to get started."