Arlington Martin girls soccer coach Ruth Knight logged her 500th career victory on Feb. 4 when the Warriors beat Fort Worth Paschal 4-3. All of Knight’s 500 wins have come at Martin, where she was hired when the school opened in 1983.
Little did she know then that this is where she would be 31 years later.
Hired as the head soccer coach for a brand new UIL sport, and an assistant volleyball coach with a background in volleyball, Knight assumed she would eventually move on as a head coach in the latter. She confesses she wasn’t the most prepared soccer coach when she joined Martin.
“It was tough going at the beginning because the kids knew more about the game than I did,” she said. “Our first playoff run in 1987 is what really hooked me. We made it to the regional tournament that year and that’s where I got hooked.”
Knight eventually led Martin to a pair of state titles, in 1992 and 1998, advanced to the state tournament seven times and won 20 district championships.
“It’s the kind of thing you dream about as a coach,” she said of her long career. “I fell in love with it; I fell in love with the kids, the sport and I just got after it and learned as much as I could. As a coach, we all aspire to have a lengthy career that’s successful and build a program. We were able to do that here, it wasn’t just me. There’s been a lot of kids and coaches who have helped pave the way.”
Knight had plans to retire after this season, but admits her coaching embers have been stoked in part by reaching this milestone.
“I’ve kind of gotten some new life and thinking about what I’d miss and it made me reconsider,” she said. “So I think this and getting to teach a new class next year will give me the boost I need to stick with it a few more years, maybe.”
Panthers on a roll
It’s sometimes said that championships are won in the off-season, and the Keller Fossil Ridge boys took that approach after failing to make the playoffs a year ago.
Coach James Moore said he expected his squad to be improved over last season because the players were a year older.
“I felt like we were going to be a stronger team coming into this year just because we have maturity on our side,” he said. “We’ve been really young the past couple of seasons in a lot of key positions. We have some guys that logged a lot of minutes on varsity as freshmen and sophomores, and we knew that was going to start paying off this year.”
But more than that, Moore said it was his players’ extra work that has allowed them to start District 4-5A play with a 3-0-1 record. The Panthers are 7-2-2 overall.
“It’s a combination of the maturity factor, their skill and their dedication to training through the off-season. These guys lived in the weight room and on the field, and they’ve really come together as one big unit. They’ve got a singular identity now and are always on the same page together.
“The chemistry is a huge difference for us this year,” he added. “These guys are together on the field and off the field all the time. They know what the guy next to him is thinking before he even thinks it sometimes.”