The First Presbyterian Christian Academy girls’ soccer team was one win away from hoisting the state-championship trophy last season, so this year the team is training with some professional coaches to take the next step.
Atlanta Calcio Academy head coach Gavino Asteghene and assistant coach David Sexton have 60 years of combined experience training the top soccer prospects in the nation and working as international scouts. On Monday morning, the FPCA girls’ and the boys’ soccer teams worked for two hours with the coaches on the technical and mechanical aspects of the game.
Asteghene, a native of Italy who also coaches at The Lovett School in Atlanta, said he employs the same drills with his European soccer players, and it helps make the sport a more natural, intuitive process.
“If they do these drills constantly, it is going to enable them to react better in a game and against their opponent,” he said. “During the game, you pretty much play one versus one all the time, so with these drills they gain more confidence and it will become more instinctual.”
Sexton added that American soccer players do well in terms of conditioning, and the drills they use are more conducive to the way Europeans play, which involves more footwork.
“It’s not so much a different style of play; it’s just European style involves a little more of what we call ball work,” he said. “Here, they need to spend a little bit more time with the ball at their feet, and that is what we are trying to do here — develop their technical skills.”
Highlander soccer coach Tom Sukaratana said Asteghene, who he’s known since 1983, is considered the best soccer coach in Georgia.
“He is one of the busiest coaches I know, and he still came out here and did this for us out of the kindness of his heart,” Sukaratana said, adding that he was appreciative of the support of his long-time friend and said the drills will help his team become more agile.
The Highlander boys’ season starts at 3 p.m. Friday at Central Fellowship Christian in Macon. The girls start at 5 p.m. Feb. 28 at Tattnall Square Academy in Macon.
Sukaratana said nearly every girl is back, plus Asyria Daniels has returned from Korea and he thinks she will be a big asset to their defense once her ankle heals.
He said he also has several boys returning to the squad and a few fresh faces who he believes will add depth and skill.
“I feel very good about making another run for state with the girls as long as we can remain healthy,” Sukaratana said. “We have depth this season with about 24 girls. And I think this season, Sherwood is the one to watch. They dropped down from AAA to AA, and they are a well-coached team.”