Gracie Jo Standish, top row second from right, Pyper Gournay, top row second from left, and Brandy Carlson, top row third from right, pose with members of the Quakes
Helena Capital Sophomore Excels Coaching HYSA Youth Soccer
MATTHEW KIEWIET 406mtsports.com Nov 12, 2019, Independent Record
HELENA -- dropping your kindergartner off for their first soccer practice with their new coach. You’d likely want the coach to meet certain basic qualifications, right? Hopefully they’re coherent. Hopefully they’re responsible. Hopefully they are capable of keeping a group of children focused for ... most of a practice. That's not asking too much, is it?
“It was so funny, her first year when she was 13 …” begins her father Jesse Standish, an optometrist who moved to Helena in 2002 from Anaconda.
“All the parents were so doubtful,” Gracie Jo interjects with a laugh. “They were so disappointed when they saw me. They admitted it to me, too. They were like, so disappointed when they saw me, but then they all requested me back so it was okay.”
Her team went 6-1 during her first season. She has not lost a game since. Her overall record is 31-1. By all accounts, her players take to her every word.
“I feel like since I am so young, I can still relate to the seven-year-olds who I coach,” says Gracie Jo, a 15-year-old sophomore at Capital High School whose favorite subject is AP European history. “They listen to me really well, but I can still joke around with them.”
Gracie Jo started playing soccer when she was five years old and competed up until the eighth grade. She first took an interest in coaching while helping out her dad.
“So, I started coaching my oldest daughter,” Jesse begins.
“She was horrible at soccer,” asserts Gracie Jo.
“She was,” agrees Jesse as he continues. “The coaching was so hard to watch. I ended up putting in 20 seasons and (Gracie Jo) helped me with about 10 of those.
“So then with her (younger) sister’s (Gretta) team, I would take five of them and she would take five of them, and the two groups would scrimmage.”
The Helena Youth Soccer Association was short on coaches, so Gracie Jo was offered the opportunity to coach and she said ‘yes.’
Most of Gracie Jo’s team comes from Montana City and they all go to school together, according to Jesse.
“The HYSA tries to do that with certain districts – they try to keep them together,” he says. “So when she started at 13 … she’s had some kids that have not continued on and some have been added. But now, her whole team has been the same for almost two seasons now.
“All the parents request her because if you request a coach you can be put on (his or her team), and if you don’t request it then your kid can get booted off.”
Gracie Jo coaches the Quakes with two of her friends, Brandy Carlson and Pyper Gournay, who are also students at Capital High.
“(Gracie Jo) always has a great attitude and she’s always willing to help the kids become better players,” said Gournay in a text message. “She runs drills that will prepare the young athletes for their future but also making them fun for both the coaches and the players.”
Gracie Jo gives players the freedom to try out a new position, but has the wherewithal to know when to put her foot down and let her players know when it’s time to get serious.
“I try to switch up positions, but I also try to keep them in the areas where they’re strongest,” she explains.
Gracie Jo, who turns 16 next week, describes her practices fairly modestly. But it’s easy to get a picture as to why the players take to her.
“We run a few laps and do some stretches. And then we usually split up half-and-half. I’ll kick to the ball out to the middle and they race to go get it,” she says. “Whatever we worked on that day – it could be dribbling, turning the ball around, stuff like that. They’ll do that, turn back in and shoot. And then that team gets a point.”
Within the drill, Gracie Jo makes sure her players are supporting each other.
“They’ll be like, ‘Go, Catherine! Go, Catherine! You’ve got this.’ And so that’s why we do that.”
“I really like the energy that Gracie brings to practice and how she makes any drill fun for the kids plus the coaches,” said Carlson via text message. “She makes it so the kids look forward to going to practice.”
Gracie Jo didn’t take up coaching at a young age because she aspires to be the next coach of Team USA, or something in that realm. She’s coaching because she genuinely enjoys it.
“I’m going to stick with it until my senior year,” Gracie Jo says. “Then I am going to hand over the coaching to someone else.”
The next step will be college.
“I want to go (to college), I just don’t know what I want to do,” she says.
With such a positive yet grounded attitude, it’s no wonder as to why she’s been so successful.