Back with the Troups: Alyssa Barton makes a return to the sidelines for the Troup girls soccer team

Published 9:00 am Saturday, March 9, 2024

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Alyssa Barton is back on the Troup sidelines. The former Tiger soccer player has made her triumphant return just three years after graduating. This go around, she is serving as an assistant coach for the girls soccer team.

“It’s just different because when I was a player, I’d be like, okay, they’re not going to hurt me, but as a coach, you are not gonna let the other team hurt your girls. You want to protect them as much as you can,” Barton said. “So now, I have these Mama Bear instincts as a coach that I didn’t have as a player.”

She was thrown into the fire early and got baptized as a coach in elevated and humorous circumstances.

“There was a lot of yelling,” Barton said of her first game on the sidelines as a coach. “Our first scrimmage was against Callaway and I kind of had to step up to be head coach, because (head coach Carolyn) Harkness was actually a way for a family wedding, so I had to step up and be head coach.

“I remember the ref came over to find out who the coach was because I look young and looked kind of like a player. I was trying to remember things that my travel ball coaches and my high school coaches did and put all those into perspective for the girls.”

Barton was one of the girls who helped transform the perception of the program. During her five years as a player with Troup (Long Cane did not have a program at the time so Barton played up with the JV team her eighth-grade season), she saw the team go from laughingstock to playoff-bound. 

“A lot of girls transferred off, but I stayed and kind of helped build the program with the other girls in my grade because we got a lot of people involved in travel ball. And my senior year, we made it to playoffs, which we had never done before. So it was kind of building the program from scratch my eighth-grade year up to senior year where we made history for ourselves.”

Currently a junior at the University of West Georgia, Barton makes the commute to be back part of the Troup family. 

It is a commitment for sure, but one she is happy that she has made.

“Sometimes I’m late to practice because I have to come all the from Carrollton for school,” she said. “It is a commitment, but I don’t have any regrets.”

One of the strongest voices beckoning her back to Troup was head coach Carolyn Harkness, who was an assistant coach during Barton’s playing days. The two share a strong bond and it was at Harkness’ insistence that Barton took on her role as coach.

“I learned a lot from her because she’s also an elementary school teacher which is what I’m going to school to be so I learned a lot from her as a coach and as just an idol to look up to,” Barton said. “We kind of think the same and do everything the same. So it’s really easy to communicate with her. It’s really special being back together with her.”

Coaching down the line was definitely a possibility, but starting her coaching career while still in college was not something on her radar.

“I have come back and watched the girls play some games and I watched my brother play last year, so I always thought about being s coach, but didn’t think it would happen now,” Barton said. 

Despite being around the game for years, Barton is not a soccer lifer. She first gave it a go in the eighth grade and it was love at first sight. Barton quickly found a home on the soccer pitch in the ensuing years.

“I was naturally kind of good at it because my dad had grown up playing it. My brother plays, I’ve had touches on the ball before, but I’ve never like played before. I didn’t even play rec soccer or anything,” she said. 

This is Barton’s first experience as a coach. Her perspective and outlook on the sidelines have completely changed since her last run on the Troup sidelines as a player.

“I mean, you see it all, and you see their emotions from everybody’s point of view, not just yours,” she said. “I have to be the grown-up in the situation now and find solutions. I’m now the one who has to calm people down when they get emotional.”

Barton, a former captain on the team, has been a natural leader all her life and is now translating those skills over to her role as coach. 

Now, she is no longer Alyssa Barton, no. 15 playmaker, she is coach Barton, and the title fits like an old glove.