Friday, April 08, 2011

SPORTS>>New coach commits to NP girls

Leader sportswriter

Salami is good for North Pulaski athletics — no matter how you slice it.

The Lady Falcons have a new soccer coach in Rodney Salami, a former football and soccer standout at North Pulaski who graduated in 2005.

Salami is back after four years at Lane College in Jackson, Tenn., where he earned his bachelor’s of science degree in biology before moving to New York for seven months. After leaving New York when a prospective career situation fell through, Salami took a civilian job in Kuwait as a transporter of truck and tank parts.

Salami returned to the Jacksonville area in mid-February, where he quickly accepted the job of preparing the Lady Falcons for spring soccer.

“When I finished college last year, they wanted me to coach the girls soccer team,” Salami said. “But I had taken a job in New York. That didn’t really play out like I thought it would.

“I think if I had worked with the girls last year, things would have been better off for this year.”

The Lady Falcons have provided plenty of clay for Salami to mold with a freshman-heavy roster.

Senior midfielder Stephanie Alvis anchors the team and provides experience and leadership, but a number of the underclassmen have never participated in athletics of any kind.

In his high-school days, Salami was a starting defensive tackle for the Falcons despite his speed and 5-10, 205-pound frame. His 40-yard dash time entering his senior year was a 4.5, and he did see some time at fullback.

Coaching the Lady Falcons is a volunteer job for Salami, who works as a personal trainer for Central Arkansas Fitness. Salami runs a fitness boot camp and holds classes in Lonoke, at the Big Dam Bridge in Little Rock and also works with military personnel.

Salami plans to return to school for his master’s degree in physical therapy while volunteering on the soccer field.

The Lady Falcons have been consistent postseason contenders despite frequent coaching changes over the years, but they are off to a 0-4 start this season. Salami guessed that close to three-fourths of this year’s team are freshman players.

As for Alvis and the other upperclassmen, Salami simply wants to offer a steady presence to a group that has had a new coach with the start of every season.

“They kind of get aggravated with that, because they don’t have just one steady coach,” Salami said. “Every year, it’s a new coach. You have to think, people have priorities to take care of.

“But you don’t want to just brush them off, because they’re a good group of girls. You want to teach them up and maybe give them some of the knowledge that you have, so they can retain it.”