Jackson Herald sports reporter Ben Munro talks with Jefferson boys’ soccer coach Casey Colquitt — who’s guided the Dragons to back-to-back Final Fours — about how he got into coaching, water skiing and the best players he’s ever coached (Some answers edited for space constraints).
•Munro: Where did you grow up, and where did you play high school soccer? Did you play college soccer?
Colquitt: I grew up in Lexington, a small town East of Athens, and I graduated from Oglethorpe County High School in 1999. Oglethorpe did not have a soccer program until 2000, so I did not have a team to play for. Mostly, I played on travel recreation teams in the county growing up. And, no, I did not play in college. There just were not that many opportunities in soccer then.
•Munro: What were your career highlights as a player?
Colquitt: Through coaching, I’ve been able to play a lot of soccer, especially when I was an assistant coach. In your 20s, you can move and keep up with high school players a lot easier than in your late 30s. I’ve always just enjoyed playing and being around other players that enjoyed the game as much as I do.
•Munro: How are your soccer skills these days? Do you get out and practice against your players?
•Colquitt: Well, deteriorating would be the best word to describe my athletic ability. I can still demonstrate everything I need to to help my players understand body control and correct body mechanics. Actually, I’ll get out to the field several times this summer and play 11v11 pick up games with my current players and alumni. That only happens during the summer. During the school year, I’m coaching for the most part.
•Munro: What got you into coaching?
Colquitt: I worked at the Athens YMCA throughout college at UGA. At the Y, I coached soccer from ages 3 through 19. After a while, coaching just becomes such a big part of your identity. I assume that’s how anything is if you do it for 20 years.
After college, I worked at Atlanta YMCA Camp High Harbor. There, I taught kids to water ski, wakeboard and tube 20 hours each week, so coaching or teaching is just something I enjoy. I really like seeing another person learn something new and gain confidence through that process.
After I graduated from UGA, I worked at Brookwood High School for one year and went undefeated as a JV girls head coach. I moved back to the Athens area and started work at my alma mater, Oglethorpe County High School. I was able to be an assistant coach for seven years under a very accomplished head coach. That was such a valuable time for my understanding of the game.
If I were to give young coaches advice, it would be to take advantage of the years you get to learn from those older and much wiser coaches.
•Munro: Who is the best player you’ve ever coached?
•Colquitt: This question might get me in trouble.
As for goalkeepers, I’ve been truly blessed as a coach. Javy Flores and Adam Hayes have such great qualities, yet different. During Javy’s senior year, his confidence was an 11 out of 10. Adam’s technical ability and leadership are second to none. Cam Smith, Roberto Quintal, Richie Mendoza, Brandon Hudson, Will Burdick, Christian Morsut, Jake Kuhn, Kupa Katompa and Sean Childs — there’s the all star line up from the past seven years. All of them brought something different to the table. Wherever I went, these guys were mentioned by other coaches.
Brandon and Roberto were the best strikers on the team. You could always depend on them for a goal each game.
Jake Kuhn and Will Burdick are two top notch defenders. Will was tenacious and took other players out of the game mentally. Jake Kuhn is probably one of the smartest players I’ve coached. Christian was and is a great leader and has a great love for the game.
Kupa, Cam and Sean have been great in the mid-field.
Opposing coaches have always had to game plan around these three players.
Richie Mendoza was such a quality player my first year here at Jefferson.
Overall, one does stand out more than others. Diego Tello might be the best.
He was the Region 8-AAA player of the year in 2016. Diego did so many things for us as a captain on and off the field and his level of play was at a much different level.
Definitely getting in trouble for mentioning the best.
•Munro: What are you involved in outside soccer? Any dedicated hobbies?
•Colquitt: Outside of teaching and soccer, I go to the lake as often as I can. My dad taught me how to water ski when I was 5, and I’ve never looked back. I still love to get out on the lake and ski or just ride around on my boat.
I just bought a jet ski so more lake fun to have.
I also enjoy traveling. I have a goal to go to all of the U.S. National Parks.
I’ve also gotten into hiking a lot. I’ll be hiking a couple of 14,000-foot mountains in Colorado this summer.
•Munro: How valuable is this time of year for your soccer program?
Colquitt: Summertime is a great time for our program. Players get to relax before the start their travel club season. We get to play some informal games at the stadium. All of the pressure from the season is gone and we just get to enjoy the game and each other’s company.
•Munro: Talk about the growth of Jefferson soccer. This is a program that once played on a rec department field. Now you play in your own facility and have made back-to-back trips to the Final Four.
•Colquitt: From 2014 to present, the program as a whole has made a lot of gains.
We started playing our entire season in the stadium in 2015. In 2016, the men’s team won the first playoff game in school history to advance to the Sweet 16.
In 2018, the program made a huge leap in beating St. Pius X in a region contest … In 2019, we moved to our current facility, the Turf Field at Jefferson Memorial Stadium. We did not lose one game at home in 2019. We won the region title and made the final four in 2019. That was a special year in which we went 17-3.
Obviously, 2020 was a setback, but those players were playing extremely well at the time of the shut down, and I do believe we had a great opportunity in the postseason with that group of young men. Finally, we made the Final Four in 2021. Looking back on 2021, there was a lot of adversity to overcome due to the pandemic.
We played a lot of quality teams in 2021, two finalists, four Elite 8 teams, four Sweet 16 teams and one school in AAAAAAA.
Beating Marist in 2021 is probably the most significant win in our program history. Those types of wins tell other teams around the state that you’re here to stay …
These opportunities don’t just arise because we have quality players and coaches. Our administration, board of education, assistant coaches, training staff, front office personnel, teachers, strength training coaches, parents and the community give such great support to our program and to the school as a whole.
I still remember (former principal) Dr. Kevin Smith and his wife and several others from Jefferson walking into the stands at Decatur High School in 2016.
I was surprised they were there, because I didn’t fully understand how much that moment mattered. I’ll quote Brantley Porter. He said, “Yeah, we’re here to support you. The boys team just made Jefferson sports history and that’s important to us.”
•Munro: What are your thoughts on the future of the program, particularly next year?
Colquitt: Next year, we should have a great opportunity. The boys are getting some much needed rest right now, but they all are going to be in weight training and play during the fall season. The returning seniors and juniors are a very talented group with a strong core, so I have high expectations of them.
•Munro: How much has the bar been raised after putting together back-to-back Final Four runs?
Colquitt: Making a strong playoff run each year should be the expectation from now on … As the head coach, I have had my players focus on two things: weight training and playing travel soccer.
From a personal perspective, I try to coach to the highest level I can for those that want more and expect anyone else to give their best effort to get to that point.
Lastly, I want to make sure that I’m doing my part in investing in these young men’s lives.
I don’t let anyone call it boys soccer. We’re the ‘Jefferson men’s soccer team.’ As a community, if we’re going to build good, strong young men with character then we’re going to need expectations that meet those standards.