Scott Terry is a self-professed math guy. He loves the challenge of arranging numbers like pieces on a chessboard, of finding ways to make everything fit together neatly. It challenges his brain. He has to think through things to arrive at the right decision.
“And I think coaching is the same way,” Terry said.
Which is why last fall, when the Sugar-Salem girls soccer coach was wrestling with a difficult decision — to remain the girls coach or apply for the boys position, which had recently opened — he kicked himself for missing the option that was sitting right in front of him all along.
Why not do both?
“At that moment, there was this, aha, lightbulb,” Terry said. “Like, ‘Oh yeah.’”
In hindsight, it feels like an easy realization that Terry should have come to. In the spring, he also coaches both the boys and girls tennis teams at the same time. But he had been the girls soccer coach for four years to that point, so leaving the team never crossed his mind. Plus, once Sugar-Salem cross country coach Brett Hill gave Terry the idea to try both, it wasn’t like Terry could just snap his fingers and become the coach of both teams. No, it took some planning, some brainstorming.
So in November 2020, Terry took a weekend to think about it. He came up with a blueprint for how this would work: He would need a main girls assistant and a main boys assistant, plus a goalkeepers coach. He designed a practice format that would integrate both teams in the evenings. Everything would follow an organized script.
The next Monday morning, he pitched the idea to former Sugar-Salem athletic director Jay Miller. He got the green light.
“So I guess the rest is history,” Terry said.
Almost a year later, Terry and both his Sugar-Salem soccer clubs are enjoying levels of success that would hold up if they had their own coaches, let alone one for both. On Saturday, both teams topped Snake River (the boys won 11-0, the girls 3-0). That makes the boys team 11-3 overall and 3-1 in conference play. The girls are 9-4-1, 4-0 in conference competition.
The Diggers only have three games left in their regular-season slates, too, which means Terry has found ways to help his teams become consistent. Senior Ricardo Contreras has emerged as the boys team’s best offensive force, while three freshmen — Ava Rydalch, Allie Christensen and Isabelle Tuttle — have fueled the girls team’s streak of five straight wins.
At this point, you might be wondering how this is even possible. How does one guy coach two soccer teams at the same time? The answer involves a combination of circumstances, coaching experience and the way Terry has learned to loosen his grip on the reins of the girls team — which were his for so long.
Sugar-Salem’s school is only big enough to fill varsity teams, which allows the Diggers to play their boys and girls teams at the same venue, meaning Terry can be at both teams’ games, wherever they happen. He also obsesses over watching film — “It’s like a chess match,” he said — and his staff of Kristina McRae (lead girls assistant), Vince Tafoya (lead boys assistant) and Zach Bramwell (goalkeepers coach) divvy up responsibilities in ways that allow Terry to spend equal amounts of time with both teams.
“He’s balanced it really well,” senior Kyle Brunson said. “From the boys team’s perspective, I haven’t felt any lack of coaching or attention. He works really hard at it, too. He spends a lot of time outside of what he’s required to do, because he cares about us as people and players.”
“Even with the change of him coaching the boys, he’s always just had this care for how each person does individually — even outside of soccer,” senior Corrine Flaig added. “He’s a phenomenal coach, and he really knows what he’s talking about.”
That he does. Terry played high school ball at North Lamar in Paris, Texas — which is why he always snaps pictures when he passes through Paris, Idaho — plus a year at Southern Virginia in Buena Vista, Virginia. He fashions himself an offense-oriented coach. That style, he says, has helped engineer both teams’ success.
"It says a lot about him that he's able to run both programs, but also be attentive to us coaches," McRae said. "We're all trying to communicate. It's a lot to keep track of."
But there’s another piece to this puzzle that, in some ways, Terry has had to learn on the fly: How do you manage the personalities of boys and girls? Girls, Terry likes to say, are often quick to accept too much blame for mistakes, looking inward immediately. Boys, he says, are quite the opposite. “Boys just tend to say, ‘That’s not me. All these people around me need to improve. I’m clearly the only stud around here,’” Terry said with a laugh.
So Terry pores over podcasts, articles, anything he can find from North Carolina soccer coach Anson Dorrance, who coached both the Tar Heels’ men’s and women’s programs for 10 seasons. “He doesn’t know he’s my mentor,” Terry said with a grin.
But Terry knows he is likely some of the Diggers’. That’s what drives him to try this: The kids. When he talks about the improvements he’s seen from players, a huge grin washes over his face. If somehow, someway, you don’t know why he wakes up every morning and keeps doing this, just ask him about the kids. He could go on and on.
“What I’ve found out is that it’s really all about building the relationships,” Terry said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re coaching women or you’re coaching men. If you can build relationships with them, you can almost say anything, and they’re like, ‘Oh, I trust Coach Terry. I trust what he’s going to say because he cares about me as a person. He’s not going to say something because he hates me. He’s going to say something because he wants me to get better.’
“So I think that’s been the underlying thing — build the relationships first, and everything else comes so much better after that, whether you’re coaching men or women.”