by:Kristina Ching and Jillian Owens
In between reaching deep points about life and its struggles, Jim Gross, coach of the girls’ soccer team, calls out times to the players running a Cooper test, an international measure of physical fitness. After a successful summer season of training and games, the girls came away with an undefeated record and a championship win for the first time in the history of the girls soccer program at Tustin High. In his past four years of head-coaching, the team had made it to finals only to fall short of becoming the summer league champions. “The group this summer accomplished something that has never ever been done before, which hopefully plays good karma for us going forward,” he explained.
Coach Jim has assisted and managed Girls’ Soccer at Tustin for 12 years after having a successful business career working with Mattel, Crayola, and even the Olympic sports organizing committee. He has coached at Tustin for 12 years, but has been involved with the sport for at least 20. As “absolutely passionate” as he is about soccer itself, he is more “passionate about trying to make a positive difference in young peoples lives and their direction.” It is obvious that he is dedicated to the game and the people who play it, describing it as, “a vehicle that allows me to try and make a difference wherever I can.”
This preseason, Coach Jim has added plyometrics (also known as “jump training” or “plyos,” exercises based around having muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of increasing both speed and power) to the training regimen. Kelsey King, one of the two varsity captains added this because we needed something new in our regimen and running quickly gets repetitive. Coach owes this preseason training success to these plyos. “This group has achieved and accomplished more than any other of the 11 other groups before. I say that because, one, we train very hard and all the other groups before trained very hard, but the difference is I added plyometrics to our training routines,” He divulged. This, as well as the Cooper test, interval training, an assortment of different sprints, and other technical skill training prepares the team for the season to come.
When asked about how the teams are selected and cuts are made from the 60 or so girls who tried out he explained, “I sit down with the coaches and we go through every player and where we think that they can, one, contribute and bring value and handle responsibility out on the field and two, the primary objective is to support being in a competitive situation with the varsity team.” On Thursday, October 30th, the final decision was made. Bright and early Halloween morning, a team meeting was held for the players asked to continue. Eighteen girls were rostered for each team. Varsity and junior varsity will continue to train and eventually play in the first preseason game on November 24th. Because of a lack of funding, a lack of a qualified coach, and a lack of skilled players, the program is unfortunately not able to fill another roster of 18 girls and have a frosh-soph team.
Hearing about his hopes for the season, it is obvious Coach Jim’s goal is to provide the best possible program for the girls. “We are here to provide a great experience, an enhanced value experience for the student athletes interested in our program. That at the conclusion of their experience here, that they can go look back on it and think ‘Oh that is the best doggone run program here at Tustin High School’ I’m really happy that I’m here part of it.” The coaches are proud of their program, and rightfully so. Katelyn Merrell, co-captain of the varsity team had this to add about the team, “I love the girls, and I love getting to know the team. I love the pride of playing for my school and the competitive nature of it all. Our goal as a team is to make it to CIF and continue to make history for Tustin Girl’s Soccer.”
From my interview with him, one thing was made clear about Coach Jim; he cares about his team. He cares about the students and their futures. At least once a week he’ll share his wisdom with the team. When we asked what advice he had for his players, he gave us this; “Life’s journey is going to be kinda like a rolly-coaster ride and you’re going to have good days, and some days you eat the bears, and other days the bears eat you. It’s how you deal with adversity that defines your character, it’s what you do when the chips are down or you hit that speedbump, that determines your character as an individual and ultimately your character on the team. Be better today than you were yesterday. Not only in this, but no matter what you choose to do make sure your room is a little bit cleaner today than it was yesterday. Make sure that you’re helping your family out a little bit more today, or helping a younger sibling out a little bit more today. As it relates to the academic world, what can you do to make yourself better in math? What can you do in history, or English, or science? My message is kind of the same, and we need to figure out, individually, the challenges upon us to be better, to make a positive difference in someone else’s life other than your own.”
Following his own advice, Coach Jim has obviously made a positive difference in the lives of many students here at Tustin, and he will continue to do so as long as we have the privilege of having him as our coach.