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Junior goalkeeper helps build bridge for TJ soccer program

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Tori Cotter, of Pleasant Hills, has a busy schedule every fall. Not only is she the starting goalkeeper for the Thomas Jefferson girls' soccer team, but the 16-year-old junior also plays trumpet in the marching band every Friday night.

Her practice schedule is tight and requires coordination between the soccer coach and band director to make it work.

This year, Cotter's fall schedule got even more difficult when she took on an additional challenge — coaching a Jaguars United U11 girls' travel soccer team as part of a school-required graduation project.

Cotter has been playing soccer since she was 4 years old. She loves the sport and excels at it. She has been the Lady Jaguar's starting goalkeeper since she was a freshman.

“Tori has kept us in many games because of her stellar goalkeeping,” Melissa Allan, Thomas Jefferson's head coach, said. “She's one of our best players. I wish I could use her on the field, but we need her in goal.”

Cotter volunteered at Allan's youth soccer camp every day this past summer.Allan encourages her players to get out into the community and help build fan support for soccer in the district.

Cotter took her coach's advice to heart when it came time to come up with an idea for her graduation project.

“She has a knack with kids. She made such an impact on them,” Allan said. “It doesn't surprise me at all that she would take this (project) on.”

The school graduation project requires 40 hours and should be geared toward community service. Cotter recalled that two of her sophomore teammates, Paige Conley and Emily Stuncard, already were helping coach youth soccer teams.

“It kind of inspired my graduation project,” Cotter said. “Since we don't have a middle school soccer program at TJ, I wanted to get more of the high school players involved with the youth program, and maybe help build a bridge between the younger players and our high school program.”

Cotter coached the Jaguars United U11 girls throughout the fall season. When her busy schedule conflicted with their game or practice times, she came up with creative ways to interact with them.

“One time I took a bunch of them to Eat'n Park, and talked to them about proper nutrition and the impact it has on their performance,” Cotter said.

Cotter learned a lot from her coaching experience.

“It was a whole new perspective — watching the game from the sidelines and coaching from there. I did have the urge to go on the field and play at times, but I restrained myself,” she said.

She found it difficult to motivate the girls at times because of their young ages and different skill levels, but enjoyed getting to know them all.

Cotter is planning to play soccer in college, and wants to study either music education or physical education. Her coach has no doubt she has the skill to continue her soccer career at the next level.

Though her graduation project is complete, Cotter wants to continue her involvement with the youth soccer teams.

“I want to coach again in the future, and I want to get more girls on my high school team involved with coaching,” she said.

Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer.

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