Grant Ready to Take Reigns of Men's Soccer Programby Adam Ledyard
SOCCER (M): MARSHALL, Texas (12/13/12)- Soccer is not a business to Paul Grant. Soccer is a family. Grant will now have the chance to bring two programs together at East Texas Baptist University and generate a stronger family atmosphere for men’s and women’s soccer as he takes over both programs.
"I want to bring both programs under one umbrella – yet separate, yet together. One of the first things I would like to do is set up a family like environment between the two programs. We do some things with the women’s program that I would like to implement into the men’s program,” says Paul Grant.
In the last six years as the head coach of the women’s program, Grant has started traditions that the players and family take a hold of and create memories with. His teams generate an atmosphere that families want to be a part of. This is what he will bring to the men’s program.
Grant says, "At home games we usually have tailgates and I would like to have that continue for the men’s program. From tailgates, to community service, to adding items down at the soccer complex, we all would be one together.”
Grant came to East Texas Baptist in 2007 a week before pre-season started for the women’s soccer team. After making it through the first year, he has had five winning seasons in the American Southwest Conference. Currently with 46 career wins, he is tied for the most wins for a head coach in the program.
"The cupboard was pretty bare when I inherited the women’s program six years ago and now things are looking up as we have made the ASC tournament three out of the last four years,” Grant says. "We just had our biggest class graduate since I have been here with six seniors this year so I would say our women’s program is heading in the right direction. We are finding kids that fit not only our program but fit ETBU.”
Grant is a proven winner in his career from his high school coaching days at All Saints Episcopal in Tyler, Texas, to turning around the women’s program at East Texas Baptist. Before his arrival, ETBU had made the ASC Tournament only four times in the eight years of existence. In the past six years, Grant has guided his team to three ASC Tournament appearances in the past four years. In a conference that boasts 13 teams with only six making the post-season tournament, that accomplishment itself in three of the last four seasons is a big accomplishment. The ASC has produced a NCAA Division III national championship in 2010 and is one of the most competitive conferences in the nation.
At All Saints Episcopal High School, Grant also directed both the boy’s and girl’s programs at the same time. He won a combined four Texas TAPPS state championships and five TAPPS State Coach of the Year awards. His boy’s teams won five straight district championships and then won back-to-back TAPPS state championships in 2003 and 2004 while finishing second in 2005. In that same season (2005), he started the girl’s program that went on to win the TAPPS state championship in 2005 and 2006.
So for Paul Grant, taking two programs together to the next level has already been done once in his coaching career.
"I am inheriting a program now that is similar to what I had when I was All Saints Episcopal and within a couple of seasons we made the post season, a couple seasons after that we were in the state tournament, and then we won back-to-back state championships. We were pretty much a program of nowhere and after a few seasons we were one of the top programs in the state,” says Grant.
He inherits an ETBU men’s program that has a solid foundation that Jose Alonzo started and maintained for 18 years. Since joining the ASC, though, the men’s program has not made an appearance in the post season tournament.
"I think the first thing we need to do is make it a program. I think right now it’s a team and we need to grow it into a program with its own leadership,” says Grant. "There will be accountability in a program and that is the first thing we will look at implementing is being accountable in the program first and foremost. Things still get done if I am not around because of the student-athlete leadership.”
Grant is a builder of programs doing it successfully at the high school level and now with the women’s soccer program at ETBU. The challenge that lies ahead now is taking what has been established by Alonzo and moving it to the next level.
"I like a challenge. The challenge will be to maintain what I have and grow it with the women’s program and to turn around a men’s program that hasn’t made the ASC tournament. I don’t feel like it will take much to get it going as Jose Alonzo has done several things that have been established. I want to add my own things to what he had built and grow it more.”
The men’s program has a rich history winning conference championships when they were in the Big State and Heart of Texas Conference in the late 1990s. They also produced back-to-back NCCAA (National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association) national championships in 1998 and 1999 which only two other teams have done in the NCCAA. Several all-Americans have been produced too for ETBU from the NAIA and NCCAA.
So the cupboard is not bare at all in the richness of the men’s soccer program. As part of leading a program, Grant wants to improve the look of the surroundings at Cornish Field, too.
"I would love to help upgrade some of the items at our soccer complex like the bench area and the crow’s nest and do some re-modifications there. Big ticket items we would love to do in the future is a practice field and a field house and those will have to come with help from others,” says Grant. "Part of the plan right now is to get the alumni involved on the men’s side and reach out to some donors and see what we can make happen here.”
One program together is where Grant wants to lead East Texas Baptist University soccer. Traditions, atmosphere, facilities, and great student-athletes is all a part of what Grant wants to implement into the men’s program.
"I think what we can provide here is a program. I want players to play for me in this program that when they leave they say ‘I had a great time here in the program and at ETBU’ and that it is their program that they can come back to in the future. When the alumni come back and walk around the field and see old teammates and players that they were a part of recruiting I want to them say they helped build this program and take ownership with it,” says Grant.
The challenge has been sent forward for Grant. He knows where he wants to take the East Texas Baptist University soccer programs. It’s not about business but about family in the end.
Grant finishes, "I look forward to what is ahead. I think there is a lot of promise and excitement for this program. I am up for the challenge.”