Rolesville third-year soccer coach James Overman remembers his first recruiting strategy.
Rolesville High had just opened. The new school needed soccer players, and Overman took a different approach to fielding a team. When the school hosted an open house, Overman set up a table at the door with a sign-up sheet.
“I was telling kids, ‘Hey, you can make varsity if you sign up right now,’” Overman recalled.
At the first tryout, eight students showed up. Rolesville didn’t even think it would field a team that first year. This summer during tryouts, Overman had more than 70 kids come out. That’s the first sign the Rams were headed in the right direction with their soccer program.
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Unfortunately, bigger numbers have not translated into more wins, or any wins, yet. Three years fielding a varsity team, Rolesville has an overall record of 0-45-3, including 0-4-2 this year after a recent 6-0 loss to Enloe. The Rams played the Eagles again Thursday night and were again shut out, 6-0.
“We’ve certainly taken our lumps,” Overman said. “But from there to now, we’ve shown a lot of improvement.”
Building it up
Overman is the only soccer coach the school has known. That first day, with a group of eight, he admitted to having a “What did I get into?” moment. But he stuck with it, and so have the players. Rolesville only has three seniors on its roster this year and several juniors who were forced to be leaders as freshmen, not to mention take on more established programs during those first two years.
Overman had a roster full of players on that first team in 2013 who had never competed in soccer before. He said he had to set a small, realistic goals, such as connecting five or 10 passes. Now, the goals are different. They are what you would expect from a varsity team: winning games.
“We feel confident enough we can win some games,” Overman said. “That finally has become our goal this season. We haven’t pulled it off yet.”
The Rams started the 2015 season with a 3-3 tie with Heritage and a 2-2 tie with Wake Forest - positive signs of life for the program. According to Overman, the team took a step in the wrong direction in the rematch with Heritage, losing 9-0, but he said the team is “putting it together.”
Tommy Moore, Rolesville’s athletic director, said the disadvantage of being a new school came in the first few years, when the Rams had to start from scratch and were younger than everyone else. They sent freshmen and sophomores out to compete against varsity teams.
“We can’t use that crutch anymore,” Moore said. “We’re a lot more competitive, and that’s a good thing for us. We felt like we made a step last year in being competitive, you wouldn’t see it in our records, but we thought we were there in some games. So far, the early indications are we are a little more competitive this year.”
Moore, a long-time coach at Enloe High School before coming to Rolesville, said one of the things that intrigued him about the job was building a new athletic program. It’s been “a lot of work, but fun,” he said.
Sticking with it
Overman said throughout the tenure of the program, the morals of the players have remained high. Despite not having a win yet, he complimented his teams for always fighting until the very end of games and never giving up.
“That’s not an issue I’ve had to deal with,” Overman said.
One issue he did encounter was teaching his Rams basic fundamentals of the game at an age when some of their opponents had been playing for nearly a decade. The 2013 team had nearly a dozen players who were brand new to the sport. Overman spent most of his days working on basic skills - dribbling, passing - surely something his coaching counterparts in the Greater Neuse River Conference didn’t have to worry about.
He said the Rams are starting to play better in spurts. There was less of the kickball-type habits on the field and more plays that actually resembled soccer. The team is getting better at building an attack on the field, a good sign considering several had to be taught so much when Overman started coaching.
Some of the players stuck it out. Seniors Paul Okeke and Shaphaun Parchue have been there since the first day and are expected to have big seasons. Juniors Hans Bierer and Wes Pritzlaff have been team captains for two years. Overman expects them, guys have been through the fire, to lead the way.
“I told them right from the start,” Overman said. “That first practice I told them we need to have a whole new attitude about us. We can win games. We just have to believe we can and go out there and put it together on the field. We’ve showed that we can compete, we just have to do it consistently.”