Preps Now

2 first-year coaches look back on their seasons

East Wake High’s Bree Orth and Smithfield-Selma’s Mike Sliger coached their first varsity teams this spring. It wasn’t an easy season to come to a new school and begin a coaching career.

Early season weather problems wiped out most of the preseason for girls soccer. Orth had to make cuts after seeing her girls only a few times. In addition, she teaches at Wendell Middle School and didn’t have the chance to interact with the players on a daily basis outside of practice.

She is a native of Hershey, Pa., graduated from Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania and sought a teaching and coaching position in North Carolina, specifically in Wake County.

Sliger, who played baseball at Oklahoma Baptist, had planned a rigorous preseason for his Spartan baseball team. He saw it washed away. He also almost was overwhelmed by the telephone calls and conversations early in the season but grew to enjoy those opportunities to talk to players and parents.

Bree Orth, East Wake girls soccer

The weather was really difficult in the preseason. How did you handle losing that much practice time?

It was tough. The weeks that we lost were crucial in allowing me to get to know the girls. I just didn’t have enough time. I remember being surprised in our first game, thinking ‘I didn’t know she could do that,’ and also thinking ‘That’s not good.’

Usually a coach only has to get to know the new girls in the program. I had to learn about all of them.

How did you do that?

I talked to them a lot. I talked to their parents. I also talked to the other teachers at the school.

What surprised you as a head coach?

Just how much I enjoyed coaching. I have coached before but not as a head coach at the high school level. The relationships with the players are so different. The expectations are so different.

I fell in love with the game again. I’ve played since I was four years old, 21 years. But it is a great game. I love coaching and I loved this group of girls.

Do you plan on coaching next year?

I hope so. My teaching position is being eliminated at Wendell Middle, but I hope to be in the area. I’d love to come back here as coach, but if I’m working across the county in Cary or somewhere it would be tough to get to practices on time. But I really want to continue coaching.

Mike Sliger, Smithfield-Selma baseball

How did you handle the early season practice cancellations and all of the rain?

For a couple of weeks, we couldn’t really get on the field but tried to take advantage of every minute, every second. We didn’t take any days off. We found somewhere to practice.

How did you go about learning about your kids, not just their baseball skills, but about their lives?

When I was a player, I always wanted a coach who would have my back. A coach that wanted me there and wanted me to improve. So this year, I was always at practice early and I stayed late, just to have a chance to be there and let them know I was there for them. When they were going through struggles, I wanted them to know that I would be there.

That was one of the best parts of the season. I was told before we started off-season workouts that I’d probably have a couple of players. We had 16 the first day. We could work with eight a day. The kids came with the attitude of getting better. That was great.

What was the biggest surprise?

How difficult coaching is. I have coached in high school and college but always as an assistant. I had never made out the lineup card. There was so much to do. At first, I thought the phone would never stop ringing. I thought of cutting it off. But got use to it and ending up loving it, getting to talk to players and parents.

What was your reward for the season?

The biggest reward was the relationships with the players, parents, staff at school. It was really amazing. My team was a good bunch of guys to be around. They really wanted to improve. I had umpires tell me how the team was making progress and whatever it was that we were doing, we needed to keep it up.

One of the big rewards was seeing that every senior on the team plans to go to college. They may not be playing baseball, but they want to go on to school.

Do you plan to coach next year?

Oh, I’m in for the long haul. I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be helping with football in the fall.