Camp Lejeune, NC | March 15, 2012
by Jessie Heath, The Globe Sports editor.
The Devil Pups’ soccer team has been undergoing a transformation. With a new head coach, a new season and new team members, the Lejeune High School Devil Pups are ready to tackle every team that comes their way.
Starting a new season with a new coach is no easy task, but Kami Harp is up to the challenge. With seven years of coaching experience and plenty of playing time under her belt, Harp is no stranger to the soccer field. When the opportunity to coach a new team presented itself, she jumped at the offer.
“I chose to teach because of the coaching aspect,” said Harp. “Since my husband is in the military, most of the schools I’ve taught at are base schools. When I go to a new school, I try to get involved in the coaching part of the job, as well as teaching (math).”
While getting to know their new coach, the Devil Pups’ soccer team members also had to get acquainted with new coaching tactics - a difficult task for a team of players with varied knowledge and history of the game.
“This season, we’ve really been working on playing at the level I demand,” said Harp. “The girls have been working to meet what I expect of them in practice and at games, but it’s an adjustment for them to play and practice under my style of play.”
To help all of her athletes adjust to the changes, Harp has shaken up the practice schedule. Depending on the objective of the day, she breaks up the team to give everyone the best practice they can get.
“I try to group them in different ways every day,” explained Harp. “Some days, I have the girls who have played soccer for a while scrimmage with each other while I work with girls who are new to the sport and still learning. Other days, I let them challenge each other so they can learn from their teammates.”
No matter how they are grouped for practice, though, the expectation of every athlete on the team is the same. They begin their day with the 11 plus warm-up, an exercise regimen designed by the International Federation of Association Football, and break down the objective of the day into three steps.
“The warm-up we do targets the specific muscles that are important for female athletes to work out in order to keep them healthy,” explained Harp. “And, regardless of the topic of the day, we all start on level one. Once they understand level one, they will move onto level two and progress through practice.”
While they don’t always get to the third level of practicing their targeted skill for the day, the method seems to be working for the team, who has made progress in the first two games of the season.
“I can see the change on the field in the little things they’re doing to progress and get better,” said Harp. “From day one, we’ve seen them learn and I’ve seen the little changes make a difference in the way they play.”
As they continue to learn, Harp expects her athletes to grow in their dedication and skill, and prove what they are willing to do on the field. Knowing that she expects them to perform at a high level during practices and games, the members of the LHS soccer team have worked hard to show themselves as fierce competitors in a short amount of time.
“With every game, we get better,” said Harp. “They don’t have the luxuries other teams have, but watch out for us, because we’re going to get better and you will see the girls’ exciting improvement in every game.”
While it is difficult to prioritize what to teach when there is so much to learn about the game, the top priority on Harp’s list is clear: be a student first.
“I am constantly trying to nail home the fact that they are student athletes,” said Harp. “They are not professionals and they are not supposed to put soccer before everything else.”
Harp’s athletes are expected to keep their grades up if they want to stay on the team. She checks their grades each week and works with them to make sure they are getting the help they need in their classes. Paired with parent support and support from staff members at LHS, Harp said her students have started to “come to me with their grades every week, especially if they know they didn’t do well on a test.”
Second on Harp’s priority list for her athletes is her desire to see their dedication to the sport. She wants to see them show up to practice on time and show their heart during practice and games. She also expects them to support each other and help build one another up on the field.
“I’m lucky to have a team that is very accepting and open to each other,” said Harp. “They all live the same lifestyle and I think that helps them appreciate each other a little more.”
The Devil Pups’ soccer team will host their next home game at 6 p.m., March 28. Admission is $5.