LAURINBURG — Two days after completing her move from Canton, Michigan to Laurinburg, new Scotland girls’ soccer coach Abbi Giaier has quickly moved to put her imprint on the program.
The 23-year-old was officially named to the position on July 13 after the Scotland County Board of Education approved the hire at its regular meeting this month, and she has already met with two of the Scots’ top returning players from last year as she acclimates to her new home.
“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Giaier said at the time of her hire. “I’ve been playing for quite a long time — it’s going to be a different take on looking at soccer as a coach as opposed to being a player but I’m definitely up for it and I’m excited to take it on.”
The first-year coach takes over for Danny Gallagher, who will continue to coach the boys’ soccer team this fall.
Giaier has already spoken with all-Southeastern Conference performer Kaitlin Lewis and Emma Gray Beacham regarding her plans for the team next spring, and she mentioned one of her first priorities is earn the trust and respect from the players as she puts together an offseason program for the Scots.
“A team is only as good as how much the coach is respected, so it obviously helps to have players who respect you as a coach and who are going to show other girls on the team this is how the team is going to play,” Giaier said.
She speaks from experience, having played at the high school and college intramural level. Giaier attended Salem High School and played all four years as a varsity soccer player, and graduated from Grand Valley State University this spring.
This will be her first head coaching job at the high school level, but she said she has coached youth soccer in recent years while serving as an assistant at high school soccer practices. Giaier plans to have a leadership group helmed by upperclassmen to further mentor younger players.
“I definitely believe in captains,” Giaier said. “From my standpoint, upperclassmen are usually better at leading teams just because they are older and they are looked up to more so that is something I am going to do. It’s whoever is there, shows up to practices, can lead a group, can lead a team, is happy to be there, is a good team player and who works hard.”
The Scots finished 3-12 overall and 3-7 in the SEC last season, but are set to return two all-conference performers in Beacham and Lewis. Deanna McLaurin, who was the only other Scot named to the all-SEC squad, graduated in June.
While the team made strides as the season progressed, lack of communication and cohesion plagued Scotland at times, especially during the early part of the year. Giaier said the closer a club is off the field, the better it performs on it and she hopes more team-bonding activities will fix some of those issues.
“I mentioned pasta parties to Emma Gray and she had never heard of what a pasta party was, which is basically you’re at someone’s house and you load up on pasta and carbs the night before a game,” she said. “It’s a mandatory thing where everyone has to be there and the reason it would be mandatory is because it is a team bonding type thing.”
While there are North Carolina High School Athletic Association-mandated dead periods littered throughout the calender, Giaier said her team will practice as often as they are allowed to prepare for next year.
“I’m going to take advantage of whatever we can outside of the season,” she said. “I think it’s important in February when the season does start, that’s not the first time the girls have touched a ball that whole year. Weight training, trying to get some touches on the ball, some endurance routines and practices throughout the fall and winter is going to be really helpful.”
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.