From Skyhawk to Mustang: Point senior set to take over as Gardner Newman girls soccer coach

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, August 23, 2023

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Soccer courses through the very veins of Khlari South. The Point University Skyhawk is about to embark on her final season of college soccer while prepping to begin her first season as Gardner Newman’s head girls soccer coach.

“I have been coaching for eight years now,” South said. “I have been doing private lessons and soccer camps during the summer.

“Everything happened so quick. I remember calling (athletic director Tia Sheffield) and hearing the excitement in her voice when I said I was interested.”

While not a native of Troup County, South has found a home here. After her original college soccer program folded, South was looking for a place to apply her trade for her final two years of collegiate eligibility. She found her way to Point last summer through a connection she made with coach Randy Douglas years ago.

“I waited a year after my last college shutdown due to debt and heard about that and reached out about my plans and asked me to come try out for his team,” South said. “At that point, I had known him for so long and had no idea he coached a college.

“I came down here to try out and fell in love in second and signed the next day. I love Point. It is a great place to be.”

South has always felt a call to coach when she has to hang up the cleats. Now, she is getting that opportunity at a higher level than youth sports.

“I love coaching, so there was no question on my end,” South said. “I just immediately started to think about ways I could help the girls succeed in their upcoming season.”

South feels that she is particularly suited to help coach young girls as they transition into adolescence.

“This is the age that the girls think they are everything and a bag of chips, it’s both beautiful and annoying,” South said. “I have a special connection to younger kids because I have autism. I am able to connect with younger girls than older girls because I know what it is like to go through a transition. I didn’t talk for a long time because of my disability, so I became an observer which really helped me when I got older.

“I understand non-verbal kids and strong emotions and understand what the girls are feeling.”

She is hoping that Gardner Newman is not just a stopgap, she envisions herself being a part of the program for years to come if everything works out. With her graduation set for December, her next step is nigh. 

With the Mustangs program still in its infancy, South hopes to build the program up and build a pipeline. 

“Middle school connects to high school which connects to college athletics before an athlete even touches the field,” South said. “My goal is to get these girls to play in high school and earn a starting spot at the next level, so that their next coach can prepare them to kill it in college.”

South met a few of her future players when the Mustangs had their free physical day earlier this month, but she will not meet most of them until she gets them on a practice field later this fall. 

In the meantime, she wants the make her final run as a Skyhawk a special one. 

“I want to leave it all out there,” South said. “I don’t want to leave the field with regrets, I want to give it my 100% and graduate knowing that my coach was proud of me.”