Hickman soccer captain sets the tone for younger players

Thursday, October 20, 2011 | 9:03 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA – Despite being one of three senior captains on Hickman’s soccer team, Alex Holliday is the team’s unquestioned leader.

Holliday didn’t wait until this year to take on that role, either.

“As a junior he started stepping into that leadership spot. Not so much leading by talking but leading by example,” Hickman assistant coach Tony Gragnani said. “Now, as a senior, he is doing both, and he has earned that respect from his teammates.”

It hasn't always been easy for Holliday this year, though, as his team has struggled mightily at times, most notably in a 6-0 home loss to rival Rock Bridge. Holliday was part of a Hickman team that made the state's Final Four two years ago.

“This has been a frustrating year for me,” Holliday said. “But the biggest thing you need to do as a leader is just to show the other guys to keep your head up and to keep playing to get through it."

Holliday said focusing on the future and contributing to the soccer program at Hickman has helped him do this.

“Things in this world are bigger than you, and a soccer team is one of those things,” he said.

"It’s not just helping yourself get a district title anymore. It’s helping these boys set up a program, mentoring them, making their skills get better,” Holliday said. “Because as the oldest, I mean they are going to look up to me and the other captains, Grahm Meyer and Cody Gordon.”

Meyer said Holliday has a positive influence on the younger players.

“For every negative comment, he gives nine other good comments,” Meyer said. “He’s positively reinforcing all the time.”

One teammate he's had an impact on is junior Peter Plakorus.

“He always does what he is told," Plakorus said. "He always listens to the coaches. He always gives his hardest. He’ll just help you out whenever you’re in need.”

Plakorus said that next year, when he is a senior, he will use what Holliday taught him to become a better leader.

Holliday's example "will help me lead the younger kids that are coming in and it will just help me keep my head right during games and during practices,” he said.

Holliday's all-out hustle makes him the "spark plug" of the Hickman soccer team, Gragnani said. 

"I think that everybody knows that every game he’s going to give it everything he has, it doesn’t matter who our opponent is or how the game is going, he’s going to leave everything out there for them," he said.

Gragnani said Holliday’s ability to mentor younger players, especially those who play forward like he does, is one of the most important assets he brings to the team.

“We’ve had a couple of freshmen that we have pulled up this year, and he has been pretty good about coaching them on the side and showing them what they need to do to be successful as forwards,” Gragnani said.

Meyer agreed.

“He leads by example by trying to get better himself, which leads to the younger guys trying to get better themselves, too,” he said.

Gragnani, who has taught Holliday since eighth grade, said he is also a good student.

"He does pretty much everything you would expect from an excellent student,” Gragnani said. “He stays on top of his work, participates in class.”

Holliday is also a member of numerous clubs and organizations including Columbia Aeronautics and Space Association, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Young Life.

Gragnani said, “I think he’s done a great job of setting kind of an expectation and a model for what we want from a Hickman soccer player.”

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