Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Coaches with spring in their state championship step

By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Staff Photographer | Published June 25, 2015

ATLANTA–Here are profiles of four coaches who have demonstrated a championship pedigree in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Atlanta.


St. Pius X Girls Soccer Coach

Sara Geiger Photo By Michael Alexander

Sara Geiger
Photo By Michael Alexander

Age: 29

Hometown: Lilburn

Began coaching: 2008

Overall record: 152-16-6

State championships: 2009-2011 and 2013-2015

Coaching philosophy: “I am a very intense coach during our training sessions and try to get the most out of my players during our practice sessions. I like developing our sessions off of the previous game’s mistakes and weaknesses. I am also big on work ethic and mental toughness. I will push the girls hard so that I know they can handle anything that is thrown at them. I am also a very involved coach. I am constantly checking on their school grades, their families and their social lives to make sure that they are succeeding in all areas of their life.”

Team ritual/tradition: “Before the playoffs begin I always give the girls a day off from practice and we go see a movie and get ice cream together. It is a nice break off from training and just a relaxing time together after school.”

Prospects for 2016: “We lost a key center back, Rachel Heard, but we have some young players that will be able to step in. We will also have our freshman returning keeper, Emory Wegener.”



Blessed Trinity Girls Tennis Coach

Alan Keel Photo By Michael Alexander

Alan Keel
Photo By Michael Alexander

Age: 54

​Hometown: Albany

Began coaching: 2011

Overall record: 97-18

State championships: Keel has coached five of the school’s nine state championship tennis teams (2011-2015).

Coaching philosophy: “I want the players to know that I love them and care for them as people and students. Also, especially in tennis, I strive to create a ‘team’ from a sport that, up until high school, is very much an individual sport. I try to place people in places where they can succeed and also place them outside their comfort zone to challenge them a bit, from time to time. For our team, it is also important that I can create the most challenging schedule possible, so we keep sharp as playoff time rolls around.”

Personal ​and team ritual/tradition: “I have some ‘quiet time’ walking around the courts, cleaning up, setting up, and enjoying the quiet. I do not seem to do that as much in the regular season, but during the playoffs, when we are facing teams I am not familiar with. As a team we have a team yell that has evolved into an indicator of our excitement for that day’s match. How loud it is dictates how excited we are to play. At playoff time, we do a few small bonding things. I think the girls like the impromptu ice cream party the best.”

Prospects for 2016: “We expect good things again in 2016. We lost three seniors from the 2015 team, but we have a very solid core of returning players. Additionally, our JV team was quite strong last season, so there is depth in the ranks. Our JV coach always does a great job with keeping the girls excited and hungry to improve. We also always seem to get a surprising freshman player or two each year.”



St. Pius X Boys Soccer Coach

David O'Shea Photo By Michael Alexander

David O’Shea
Photo By Michael Alexander

Age: 37

Hometown: Born in Irvine, Scotland; grew up in Bolton, England.

Began coaching: 2008

Overall record: 95-9-4

State championships: 2011 and 2013-2015. The team was also recognized by FAB50 rankings as national champions for the 2011 and 2015 seasons.

Coaching philosophy: “As a program we focus heavily on preparation—everything from fitness, mentality and tactical analysis. We also make sure that we are thoroughly prepared for every opponent that we play. Each player knows exactly what is required of them in a game to provide success.”

Team ritual/tradition: “We attempt to stay very close as a team. The unity that we create is an important part of our success. We do this by organizing many team events from team overnights at the beginning of the season to traveling to the Jekyll Island tournament to prepare for the playoffs. I believe the closer the players are to each other off the pitch, the more they will work for each other on it.”

Prospects for 2016: “I am always excited about the new players coming through. We have continued success with our middle school and JV teams, and this year we will see many of those players step up to the varsity level. We have some excellent young players—two of the starting 11 in the 2015 state championship finals were freshmen. Each player that makes the varsity team will know that expectations will continue to be high.”



Our Lady Of Mercy Cross Country And Track And Field Coach

Mark Tolcher Photo By Michael Alexander

Mark Tolcher
Photo By Michael Alexander

Age: 44

Hometown: Charlottesville, Virginia

Began coaching: 2006

State championships: Seven of Our Lady of Mercy High School’s nine state championships were earned by teams coached by Tolcher: boys cross country, 2006-2008; girls cross country, 2008; girls track and field, 2007, 2013, 2015.

Coaching philosophy: “Surround the students with coaches who truly care about kids and who do their best to impart their knowledge upon the athletes they coach. I hope kids know that while we focus on various aspects of the sport, we’re most concerned with who they are as people.”

Team ritual/tradition: “Well before the official season begins, we do a variety of things to help athletes get ready for the season. We try to be creative. Toward the end of the season, approaching championship events, we try and find a balance between intensity and rest, trying to keep their bodies and minds sharp while helping them to relax and be mentally ready.”

Prospects for 2016: “It seems like we lose major contributors each year. Luckily we have enough athletes who have experienced success and want to return to that level. That always provides for a team that knows what it takes and who can set that tone for younger members looking for the same thing. While winning is not the only goal, if we’re going to compete, we might as well think of winning as a possibility.”