By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
Over the course of 20 hours during the weekend, Loyola’s Mark Matlock coached a soccer game. Then another. And another. And then one more.
But he did take Sunday off … sort of. “All state nominations and film study to prep for the playoffs,” he said.
Such is life as not only the girls coach for the Flyers (his 10th year) as well taking on the boys team this year as well. “I was a little skeptical at first, given my schedule,” Matlock said. “I was excited once I figured out how I was going to do it. I guess I’m not good at saying no.”
Coaching two teams at once is a challenge but in ways you might not expect. Double-headers are typical and often stacked on back-to-back days, as Matlock had to deal with Friday and Saturday.
“The hardest part is managing the transition from one game to the next,” Matlock said. “I can’t really talk to the girls after the game because I have to get the boys ready. That’s the hardest part … having to come back afterward and deal with the notes from the game that I’ve made.”
Matlock isn’t the only coach to pull double duty – Adam Hester coaches both at Calvary Baptist and Shelley McMillian has also coached boys and girls at multiple schools – but there’s actually more to Matlock’s story.
Matlock was the girls coach this year at LSUS as well as the director of coaching at CABOSA for 13U-19U. Want more? He is also the state director for the Olympic Development Program.
At one point, he was doing all of that at the same time.
“His seasons never end,” Hester said. “It’s different age groups and different personalities. I know with our boys and girls at Calvary, we don’t play the same styles or formations, we play to our strengths in that given season. Someone like Mark who has been at it this long, he knows what to do to get the most out of his players.”
Matlock, 46, has been coaching soccer for 22 years, including 18 at the high school level. Before coming to Loyola he had coached the Byrd boys, Magnet girls and Captain Shreve girls. At Loyola, he has been to the state finals with the girls six times, including winning the state championship in 2019-20.
Matlock has been All-State Coach of the Year four times in the last nine years.
But coaching both at the same time is something new for him, and sometimes it seems like the games never stop. “It’s actually emotionally exhausting because yoru’re so invested in each game, especially when they are all close,” he said of double-headers. “For me, I try to compartmentalize. Each team has a different tactical approach to the game and focus. I’m not physically tired; I’m emotionally tired.”
Having experience of coaching both boys and girls made it easier for Matlock in his new role this year, but he knows there are important differences to take into account.
“One of the main differences is that girls will apply what you are trying to teach them more,” he said. “They want to do well for you. They are people pleasers. The boys also want to play hard for you, but they are more of ‘Hey coach, we got this. You can save the speeches for later.’ With the girls, sometimes you have to worry about their confidence level more than you do with the boys. It’s a little difference in the style and approach, but I’ve enjoyed coaching both.”
After a successful weekend in which the Loyola girls beat Caddo Magnet (the #2 ranked team in Division II) and Lakeshore (the #7 DII team), the Flyers will travel to Stonewall Tuesday night (6 p.m.) to take on North DeSoto (12-4) at 6 p.m. It will be a de facto district championship game for Loyola (No. 4 in Division III) and North DeSoto (No. 5).
The Flyers have won 12 straight district championships, the last nine under Matlock.
“They’re the standard bearer for our area,” Hester said. “That’s who you want to be, right? It really is a year round process.”
“It makes a real difference when your players play year-round,” Matlock said. “You are only going to be as successful as the work your players do pre-season outside of the high school season. It’s very difficult to go up against those South Louisiana teams with players who are only playing in high school. We’ve been fortunate to have so many players who have been able to put in that training before they ever get to us.”
PHOTO: Submitted photo