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'Man-plan' works for SHS soccer
042914 SHS SOCCER 03
The Statesboro High School boys soccer team started a new program this season called "man-plan." Players go over daily goals and guidelines of what it means to be a "man" in society. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

  The Statesboro High School soccer team piled into the school’s field house Thursday afternoon before practice to go over notes. Each player had their own personal blue envelope with a plan inside. However, these plans were not game notes from the night before or a strategy of how to score on the field. These notes were a part of a new program to help the young players in the room become men.
    The program, aptly named “man-plan,” helps the players set goals and gives the team an outline of what it means to be men, said SHS head soccer coach Nick Thrower, following a man-plan session before the start of practice Thursday.
    “Me and the coaches got together at the beginning of the year and we realized a couple of things about our team. We were very young and very talented, and in sports those two things are a dangerous combination,” Thrower said. “We really wanted to take the time and outline what we expect from men, and the man-plan is our way of voicing that.”
    Every day before practice, the varsity and junior varsity team meets in the locker room for 15 minutes to discuss the day’s topic of D.R.I.V.E., which is an acronym for determination, resiliency, integrity, vision and enthusiasm.
    Thrower began the program this year following the departure of 18 seniors who graduated from last year’s team. With a pivotal rebuilding year in the balance, Thrower said the man-plan has really helped keep the team together.
    It’s not just the team that is relatively young, but the staff as well. Thrower is one of the eldest of his coaching staff (26), while his three assistant coaches are not over the age of 24.
23-year-old assistant coach Ethan La Pan said being close in age with his players allows the staff to relate to some of the problems the team may be facing, not just on the field, but off the field as well.
    “I know what they’re going to get into in the next two years, so I know what it’s like. Everything we discuss across the board, all the quotes and the questions, is just gearing them to be prepared whenever that time comes,” La Pan said.
    La Pan, a graduate of Georgia Southern University, said the relationship between the coaches and players has greatly developed this season.
    “Every single day I’m making mistakes and I see them ever day making smaller mistakes that when they get to my shoes they can’t afford. (Not doing homework) is the same as not showing up for work,” La Pan said during Thursday’s practice.
    The Blue Devils are 3-3 this season and have faced adversity with a couple of come-from-behind wins under the team’s belt.
Captain Emilio Quintero said he enjoys the man-plan and said the daily routine has helped the team in the long run.
    “It helps us stay positive,” Quintero said. “It was a big change because we had like 14 seniors last year and just to be down to five seniors, it was pretty tough. We have some big shoes to fill.”
    Without the help of a large senior class, co-captain Wesley Budgett said the man-plan is something that has helped him transition into a leadership role. The 19-year-old striker said the coaches initiating man-plan has created a more “team” atmosphere around the locker room.
    “Personally, it helps me because I’m the type of person that sets goals and when I set my goals I achieve them. Man-plan is a great team bonding experience and it brings us together. Not just for playing soccer, but as a group of men,” Budgett said. “It helps us mature.”
    Just six games into the new season, coach Thrower said he has already received an overwhelming response from the community and from parents about a change in his player’s attitudes. The fourth-year Blue Devils coach accredits the change to the new system.
    “Teachers and parents come up and say ‘I don’t know what’s going on but all of a sudden my child is interested in their life and taking control.’ From that aspect I have to give credit to this (man-plan),” Thrower said. “To see them improve on and off the field is rewarding and validating. It says to me what we’re doing matters.”