SPRING HILL — At the beginning of each season, Haleigh McDuff dumps handfuls of glitter into the bottom of her bag, enough to last an entire season.
Before each game she scoops out enough to sprinkle over her teammates’ heads.
It’s a tradition that started during her freshman year. The girls were making posters and had leftover glitter that “somehow just ended up in everyone’s hair,” McDuff said.
The Eagles were district champions that year, but they were about to experience a series of changes.
Several key players graduated that spring, and Scott Wern took the reins from coach Polo Furlong. Wern, who never played soccer and hadn’t coached before, knew he would have to rebuild the team.
With the Eagles off to a 6-0-1 start this season, Wern believes the team is back.
“This will be a breakout year for us,” he said. “I think we’ve got all the keys to be successful.”
Wern doesn’t take all of the credit for Springstead’s success. Much of it, he said, belongs to David Hayes, who returns this year for his second season as an assistant coach.
“On paper I may be head coach, but I learn from him,” Wern said. “I’m evolving, just like this program is.”
Hayes’ professional soccer career began in 1999, when he was selected in the third round of the MLS supplemental draft by D.C. United. He won several awards during his 12-year career, including USL Defender of the Year in 2007. He most recently played for FC Tampa Bay.
But Hayes has always been a teacher. He taught young athletes before he played professionally and continued coaching after he was drafted. He said he prefers teaching the game to young women.
“If you’re respectful, they’ll run through a wall for you,” Hayes said.
Wern said he knew he needed to surround himself with talented coaches if he was going to build a successful team. That’s why he called Hayes, who worked at Hernando when Wern became head coach.
Hayes works with each of the girls to improve their technique. Though learning from a former professional could be intimidating, Hayes doesn’t make it that way.
“He knows everything about soccer,” junior Mackenzie Reiss said. “He’s easy to talk to.”
Wern’s strength as head coach comes from a unique background. He worked as a respiratory therapist for 18 years before he became involved with the soccer team. His daughter, Renee, played at Springstead.
His time in health care helped him connect with the community, and now he uses those connections to raise money for the Eagles. Last year he raised $15,000 from local businesses and alumni.
The players say their goal for this year is to make it to state. Last year, Springstead was district runnerup. This year Wern would like to make it to the semifinals, and next year, he said they’ll be ready for the final four.
“Each year you raise the bar a little bit higher,” Wern said.