*Hickman got its first win of the season against Waynesville on Friday and has a 2-1-1 record. An earlier version of this story gave incorrect information about the team's start and record so far.
COLUMBIA — Hickman girls soccer coach Adam Taylor enjoys clean, colorful shoes and modeling for his players.
“Modeling” is the term he uses for his almost full participation in the drills his team does during practice.
Especially early in the season, Taylor wants his players to see the drills performed at a high level.
Plus, playing soccer is fun.
“If I’m going to be out here, I might as well play with them,” Taylor said.
While he has been around the program since 2006, this is Taylor’s first year as head coach of the girls squad. The team got its first win of the season Friday, beating Waynesville 3-0 and is 2-1-1 so far*.
The seniors say they love the changes he’s made.
“It’s always really bugged me with coaches that just stand off to the side,” senior Allie Lopez said.
“We have a really fun coaching staff,” senior Erika Storvick added. “They know when it’s time to work and when it’s time to have fun.”
Taylor doesn’t just participate when it’s time to have fun, though. He takes part in the conditioning program.
“We all really appreciate that,” senior Madison Kent said. “We have more motivation when he’s out doing it with us. When we’re trying to beat our 2-mile time, he’s trying to beat his 2-mile time.”
Besides participating in drills, Taylor is known for his attire on the field.
“He has style,” Storvick said.
While he may wear nice shirts and pants, Taylor’s shoes are his fashion statement.
“I’ve always liked shoes and liked my shoes to look clean,” Taylor said.
The shoes are of various colors, and Taylor makes sure each pair is properly broken in before he will display them at practice or in public.
His players like to poke fun.
Senior Mallory Schmidt pointed out that he cleans them “obsessively."
“When the ball goes in the mud, he sends someone else to get it,” Schmidt said.
Taylor isn’t the type to mind that his team has some fun at his expense. He is extremely laid back and prefers motivational tricks and encouragement to traditional, tough-guy coaching.
After all, Taylor can’t bark out orders from the sideline during practice if he’s not standing on it.
He asks his players to give him full effort on the practice field and in conditioning. If they do that, like Taylor said they did all winter, he doesn’t run them through extra drills. That way, they will have more time to have fun.
Kent said it’s a mentality of “show up, go hard, and we’ll get through it quick,” and she loves it.
Taylor certainly remembers what it was like when he was in his players’ shoes, though his might have been cleaner at the end of the day than theirs are.
He graduated from Hickman in 2002, and two knee surgeries prevented him from continuing his soccer career past high school. Coaching was Taylor’s only way back to the sports he loves.
As a player, Taylor played center forward, which helps explain the attacking emphasis he instills in his players.
Taylor’s predecessor, Tony Gragnani, was a defender in his playing days and “more of a defensive strategist” as coach, Taylor said.
The team Taylor inherited from Gragnani was known last year for its defense and fitness, and lost in the district championship game to Blue Springs South 1-0.
Taylor said he believes his current team is built to attack.
“We’ve got some speed,” Taylor said. “What better way to utilize that speed than have them in the attacking third?”
If the team is able to keep up its 2013 abilities in the defensive third and add some goals, reaching Taylor’s “only goal” of a district championship doesn’t seem improbable.
“I inherited a good situation,” Taylor said. “Now, it’s my job to take us to the next level and win a district championship.”
Storvick enjoys that Taylor emphasized defense and running less so far, but that might change.
Taylor said the team needs to improve its fitness and will be working much harder in that regard soon.
With the environment of the 2014 Kewpie soccer team, though, it’s hard to imagine that even the hard work will be too unbearable.
After all, Taylor won’t want to dirty his shoes.
Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.