Meet SIU’s ‘Soccer Skipper’

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Meet SIU’s ‘Soccer Skipper’

Grant Williams, future woman’s soccer coach, poses at the Lew Hartzog Track and Field complex, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. (Isabel Miller | @IsabelMillerDE)

Grant Williams, future woman’s soccer coach, poses at the Lew Hartzog Track and Field complex, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. (Isabel Miller | @IsabelMillerDE)

Grant Williams, future woman’s soccer coach, poses at the Lew Hartzog Track and Field complex, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. (Isabel Miller | @IsabelMillerDE)

Grant Williams, future woman’s soccer coach, poses at the Lew Hartzog Track and Field complex, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. (Isabel Miller | @IsabelMillerDE)

By Adam Warfel, Sports Reporter

Grant Williams was announced the head coach of Southern Illinois University’s new women’s soccer program on May 7.

When the Salukis began their search for a coach for the program, there were quite a few applicants, but Williams stuck out among the crowd.

“[He is] a coach that has great character, and came from a good program,” Athletic Director Jerry Kill said. “[He] is someone that can recruit, and fits the personality needed for the program.”

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Williams was born in Columbus, Ohio, but he calls Texas home.

“I went to High School in Texas, and the friends I made there are the ones I still keep in touch with,” Williams said. “Obviously I feel like I did a lot of growing up there, and my mom is still there.”

The women’s soccer coach moved around a lot growing up due to his dad’s job as a production engineer.

He made stops in his soccer playing days in Ohio, Wisconsin, Louisiana and Mississippi, landing in Texas.

Williams grew up playing soccer, with it being his favorite sport.

“[Soccer] was my favorite,” Williams said. “But we moved into some rural areas where soccer wasn’t an option, so I was a multi-sport athlete.”

When Williams and his family arrived in Texas, he really settled in as a soccer athlete.

“When we got to Texas, a little more civilized sporting culture, I picked soccer back up,” Williams said.

Williams maintained playing soccer and football in Texas as the seasons were not conflicting in that state. Soccer is where he found his passion for sports. 

“When I went from the freshmen team to the varsity team as a sophomore, I realized my soccer career was going to take me a bit further than my football career,” Williams said.

After doing a brief six-year stint in the Navy, Williams found himself as a walk-on at Concordia Lutheran University in Austin, Texas.

“I went to the Navy right out of high school,” Williams said. “When I came back out of the Navy, I did some walk-ons and ended up at Concordia Lutheran, a division three [school] in Austin, Texas.”

On a visit to see his dad in Kentucky, Williams got his first opportunity to coach.

“I went to visit my dad in Kentucky,” Williams said, “I got a coaching opportunity, and that for me was what the ultimate goal was.”

Williams has had much success at each school he has been an assistant coach making stops in Western Kentucky University, University of Evansville and Eastern Illinois University before arriving at SIU.

Softball head coach Kerri Blaylock is an alumna of Evansville University, and upon hearing of Williams’ interest in the program she began talking to some of her colleagues there.

“I asked some questions of coaches over there, and [got back] nothing but extremely positive feedback,” Blaylock said.

Williams looks forward to getting to build the soccer program here at SIU, relying on his strong staff in order to be successful.

“I was able to hit two home runs, with who I was able to [hire],” Williams said.

He followed assistant coach Libby Stout’s professional career after she graduated from Western Kentucky University, and was able to hire her in the right timing for her to coach.

As for his second hire, Williams was looking for someone who had recently graduated from college.

“I wanted somebody who was closer to being out of college,” Williams said. “Through some regional contacts, Nyomi came across my desk and it seemed like a natural fit.”

Nyomi Devine was later officially hired as the graduate assistant coach for the women’s soccer team.

Kill recognizes how important building a staff leads to success in college athletics.

“Surround yourself with good people, and good things will happen,” Kill said.

As far as recruiting players to come and make history here at SIU, Williams and Blaylock both noted it’s important to find a player with a good fit for the program.

“You have to find the fit of the kids,” Blaylock said. “I think it’s less about the area of the country and more about the fit and personality of the kid.”

Williams has been known as a successful recruiter at each school he’s been to and noted SIU as a good school for players to come to.

“The good thing about SIU is that it can really sell itself,” Williams said. “We just have to start to make a connection with the kid. Once you get them to campus, it sells itself.”

Blaylock agreed with Williams on the SIU campus selling itself to potential players.

“I think it’s beautiful here,” Blaylock said. “ I believe in this university and what it is, it’s a beautiful area and the people are warm.”

Kill also noted how beautiful the campus of SIU is, and the excellent academic programs it offers as qualities that sells Carbondale to potential players.

“Our campus is by far the best campus in Illinois, as far as the beauty and the way the campus is kept,” Kill said. “We get them down here and we have a pretty good shot.”

As to what style of play we can look forward to seeing from the Saluki women’s soccer team in their inaugural season in 2019, expect an aggressive approach.

“I enjoy the physical work,” Williams said. “To be authentic as a coach, and as a team, they will be in some regard a reflection of you.”

The expectations for women’s soccer at Southern are high, but in its first season it won’t all be about the wins and losses.

“I want the kids to compete hard,” Kill said. “Wins and losses, I’m not worried about.”

As for any advice the softball coach could give to the Navy veteran she came into an already established program, so she looks to learn from him as he establishes SIU soccer.

“I’ve never been in his shoes, he’s starting something new,” Blaylock said. “When I talk to him you can just see the excitement in his face and the passion he has for this.”

The athletic director spoke on how important communication is to the players in order for them to succeed.

“Have a vision, show them what it takes, and how it takes to get there,” Kill said.

For those of you Dawg fans out there clamoring for soccer you’ll have to wait until August of 2019 to see this team in action.

Williams looks to see all of the Saluki fans come out and support this team in its inaugural season.

“Come be a part of history, we are going to try to make a home field advantage,” Williams said. “It comes with fan support and it will be historic.”

Sports reporter Adam Warfel can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @warfel_adam. 

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