Mineola soccer on the rise
One thing is crystal clear when speaking with Coach Shelby Turner about his Mineola Yellowjackets soccer side: he is proud of them. The work ethic, discipline and character of the team have taken what should have been a rebuilding year and turned it into a very competitive season.
The Yellowjackets are 3-5 thus far in a tough 4A district. They are squarely in the middle of the second tier of district teams, along with Bullard and Cumberland. The three teams will likely be competing for the final fourth playoff spot. Athens, Chapel Hill and Mabank sit atop the district, and with only three losses between them, will have playoff reservations.
“We are building a soccer culture,” explained Turner. In only their second year of University Interscholastic League soccer competition, the roots of the program have really taken hold. An impressive number (42) of student-athletes participate in the varsity and junior varsity soccer teams.
In order to foster interest in the sport, the Mineola schools athletic department stages two soccer camps each April. Additionally, the community is served by the Mineola Soccer Association youth programs and local club teams. In an agreement reached recently, Mineola schools will be hosting the soccer association games on the practice fields behind the primary school.
Turner’s road to Mineola was full of twists and turns but in the end was guided by fortuitous chance meetings with two old coaches. Coaching stops at Red Oak and Terrell preceded Turner’s arrival at Mineola.
“Coming to Mineola required a vacancy for both an automotive mechanics teacher and a soccer coach,” he stated.
In 2017, the stars aligned, and Turner joined Mineola schools in both capacities.
“We absolutely love the community,” Turner shared. Turner and his wife, Angelyn (a Lindale native) are busy raising a young family. Noah is a seventh grade student at Mineola, Jaxson is a first-grader and Maisy is enjoying life as a 2-year old.
Coach Turner brings significant personal soccer experience to the job. He competed collegiately, on Olympic development teams and with the Austin Aztecs of soccer’s professional development league –the equivalent of baseball’s minor leagues. A defensive center-midfielder by position, Turner admits to being a defensive-minded coach.
Beyond the x’s and o’s of coaching, Turner believes the lessons of sport reach far beyond the playing field. “Yes, we want to make the game fun and enjoyable for the kids, but we use it for character building, it is what will help them succeed in life,” he shared. Turner added that this perspective is shared throughout the Mineola athletics department.
That sense of character is evident to anyone who comes to watch the Yellowjacket side. Despite having only three players with varsity experience from last year’s playoff team, the squad has a true sense of team and trust in one another. It makes for exciting soccer and memorable moments.
Mineola is early in the second round of district play. The Jackets will host Bullard at 7:15 Friday, Feb. 28 at Meredith Memorial Stadium.