SHELLEY – When you get a chance to have someone with the credentials of Aleks Mihailovic to come and help you get your soccer season started, you don’t just stand around and wait for someone else to snatch him up and sweep him away.

Mihailovic and Shelley girls’ soccer coach Jim Gregory are old friends and they take every opportunity they can to get together and if it just so happens to coincide with the start of the new soccer season, then you take advantage of it.

You see, Mihailovic is one of the most renowned and talented soccer coaches in the world. Yes, I did say the world and I am pleased to be able to call him a friend.

I did not grow up in the world of soccer and since it has become one of the fastest growing sports in Idaho and the United States for that matter, I take every opportunity to soak up as much information as I can, even if it means that I may have to chase stray soccer balls during some drills.

I first met Aleks a couple of years ago when he was doing the same thing for a bunch of girls at Shelley, and that is help to get a season started off in the right direction. That Shelley team had just come off of an undefeated regular season, before losing in the first round of the state championships and I was amazed at how little I knew about the game.

Just being around Gregory and Mihailovic forced me to absorb more about soccer in a few days than I ever thought possible.

I was almost embarrassed by how little I knew, but Aleks was patient with me and answered all of my questions and almost made me regret not having seen but a handful of games and those were all high school games.

The habits and drills that he instilled in that group of girls in 2017 at Shelley High School propelled them into the state tournament and they found themselves in the championship game. It was a dream season that just missed being one of the great seasons in the history of the game at Shelley High School.

They may have fallen in the championship game by the final score of 1-0, but the memories of that run through the season and to the final game of the year will last those girls a lifetime. The lessons that they learned will be remembered forever and a lot of it will be the things that Mihailovic shared and taught them through those few days in the hot August sun.

It was simply an insight that made me take the drive to Shelley on Tuesday morning and it turned what could have been a rather dull and boring day into another delight with the things that I saw and the things that this new and younger team showed me on the field of play. You could almost feel and see the growth of this team in a matter of a few minutes time as they worked on moving the ball and learned that there are more than one way to get the ball to a scoring position and then past a waiting goal keeper.

Such is the skill and talent of a truly great coach and coaching staff, all working in tandem to make high school players better and in a short time.

I don’t know where Shelley is ranked at this point in time, but I can almost guarantee you that they will exceed expectations and they will be much better than even they may think as of right now.

To watch the cerebral manner in which Mihailovic and Gregory worked with the young ladies and the respect that they showed all of their coaches was so very refreshing as they worked to please their coaches and be successful at the game they have chosen to play this fall.

“They have to learn that some of the things that they have been taught previously may not be 100 percent correct and be willing to listen and make the adjustments that are needed,” Mihailovic said. “I can see the talent in some of them that they don’t even realize that they have. There are some really good players in this group.”

The girls busted their tails and you could almost see them put in some extra effort as they sought out praise from the coaches.

There were some instances where they were trying so hard that mistakes were made and rather than criticize, the coaches allowed the players to tell them what went wrong and they would go at the drill again, often times with much better results.

“A lot of what these girls need to realize is that there are many ways to get the same result,” Mihailovic said. “They will get it down and they will be amazed at the results that they can get when they look, think and perform the way that they are being taught.”

It was almost amazing the difference and the improvement that was made from one half-hour to the next half-hour in a two-hour practice. There was significant improvement and I wish that the girls would have had the advantage that I did of watching it happen.

The Shelley Russets Girls Soccer Team will open their season on Aug. 23 when they play at Madison.

If what transpired on Tuesday is any indication of where these girls are headed, then the Bobcats may well be surprised at who’s coming for dinner on Aug. 23. It won’t be the old Shelley Russets, but a newer and better version of a classic team that will be coming to win.