JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
BURNET — A new sport makes its debut at Burnet High School in 2016: soccer.
Players have been busy with tryouts and practices since returning to school after the Thanksgiving holiday. The Lady Dawgs will scrimmage Marble Falls at 5 p.m. Jan. 5 at home, while the boys are scrimmaging Lampasas away at the same time. Both teams start their seasons Jan. 7 at tournaments: the boys in Jarrell and the girls in Fredericksburg.
“I find it pretty exciting, the opportunity to establish a program,” Lady Dawgs coach Wes Strahan said. “We hope to live up to the legacy of Burnet athletics. We talk about the legacy we’re building and the opportunity.”
Boys coach Bryan Robinson was an assistant football and basketball coach the past three years. Before that, he was a Lockhart assistant soccer coach.
“It’s going to be a new challenge for sure, having soccer in a public school atmosphere,” he said.
Strahan, who coached at Kountze and Georgetown, selected 25 players for the inaugural season, mostly juniors and sophomores.
“We have varying degrees of experience,” he said. “We have players playing on the elite club levels in the Austin and Marble Falls areas for select soccer. We have players who played at the (YMCA of the Highland Lakes at) Galloway-Hammond leagues and several who played on the playground.”
Robinson said the same is true for his 24 players, including senior Brock Foster.
“They do know mentally what Burnet is all about,” he said. “We have some kids who weren’t in athletics, but they may be in the future when they joined soccer.”
Since this is the first year, soccer will be a club sport for Burnet, meaning the squads won’t compete in a district or be able to advance to the playoffs. They will play both varsity and junior varsity teams from other schools. But neither coach shied away from facing established programs, some of which might be district opponents come next season after realignment.
“We’ll go to Fredericksburg as a varsity, just to see where we stand,” Strahan said. “What better way to scout them, what better way to know what they have coming up? We absolutely want to play district opponents to get a feel for what they do, how they train and what’s their philosophy on the field.”
Robinson said the players’ success in other sports will have a positive impact on the soccer team.
“There are several players who are pretty knowledgeable and know the game and participate in private soccer leagues,” he said. “The ones who haven’t had experience, we’ll coach them up and get them to that level.”
One of the biggest challenges for both coaches is not giving too much information too quickly. So they have been slowly installing their playbooks as they emphasize fundamentals. And since it’s a club sport, which means there’s no athletic period for soccer, the players don’t practice until after school.
“Every day is a day we can’t afford to waste,” Strahan said. “We’ve had nine practices to install the programs.”
“They’ve really come out and really gotten after it and showed a lot of enthusiasm and effort at wanting to be a part of Burnet Bulldogs soccer,” Robinson said.
While soccer may be new for Burnet High School, the coaches said they have the same goals as the other teams dressed in kelly green and white.
“My goal for the season is to win more than I lose,” Strahan said. “And we’ll increase our knowledge base of the game. This is your JV season that will prepare us for next year’s varsity season.”
“Win every game,” Robinson said. “Even though it’s a new year, it’s part of the tradition we have. We’ll learn it on the field every day. There’s a pride and tradition here that’s ongoing. People who grow up here know what Burnet is all about.”