SOUTH SIOUX CITY, Neb. (KCAU) – South Sioux City’s school soccer season is well underway, but just 27 years ago, the decision made by one teacher would forever change the course of the schools athletics history.
Marla Grier was a speech and pathology teacher at South Sioux City middle and high school. It was during this time that the school was trying to figure out if the soccer program would continue.
It got to be the first part of February and nobody was applying for the position. So they were going to give it one more week and then they would cancel everything,” Former South Sioux City boys soccer Head Coach said.
While the school was nearing a decision to discontinue the soccer program, Marla caught wind of the situation.
“I said wait wait, we can’t cancel it, and they said ‘well we don’t have a coach’ and I said okay, I’ll do it.,”Coach Grier Said.
Marla Grier was entering uncharted territory. She comes from a family heavily involved in athletics, however Marla never coached soccer at any level. The boys team had a difficult first few years under Coach Grier until one play sparked a new mindset.
“We were playing a home game down at the river and I on the sidelines said to one of my coaches. If we don’t win this game, or games like this, I’m done. This is it. One of my athletes…went into the game and put the ball in the net from 50 yard line and that was it. We won the game,” Coach Grier said.
Coach Grier would also help establish South Sioux City Soccer Club after having a conversation with one of her ninth grade players.
“We will always suck if we don’t play year round. And he was 100 percent right. So we start a club team. And then we started playing year round,” Coach Grier said.
Coach Grier would earn nine Nebraska State Championship appearances during her 18 year tenure, but it didn’t come without adversity for Coach Grier and her players.
“The first year we went to state. They had grocery bags for their bags and they had their uniforms and we went and played our game and it was my husband, my best friend, and her husband were our only spectators. Nobody from the school was there to watch,” Coach Grier said.
After failing to reach the state championship game in 2000, Coach Grier would lead the South Sioux City boys team to its first state final in 2001.
“A lot of it was a mindset for them that we can do more,” Coach Grier explained.
That championship loss in 2001 would be a tough pill to swallow for South Sioux’s boys team, but Coach Grier knew she was building toward something great.
“She cared for each one of the players she ever coached,” Current South Sioux City boys soccer team.
Eric Galvan played on South Sioux City’s varsity team from 2008-2012. He’s now the Head Coach of South Sioux City’s boys team and credits Marla for the coach he strives to be.
“There was times that I know some boys went without cleats and she would go out of her way to find a pair of cleats for the boys or whoever needed it.” Coach Galvan said.
During Galvan’s time playing under Coach Grier, the boys team went to state twice, falling just short of clinching the school’s first state title.
“I don’t know what soccer would look like right now if there wasn’t a Marla Grier in the community that took the stepping stones to make it an official club during the summer, which geared and prepared the boys for the high school season,” Coach Galvan said.
The wait to claim Nebraska soccer glory would end in 2013. Along the way, Coach Grier’s team, made up of kids from immigrant families, would continue to face prejudice.
“We were at our district championship game in Columbus, I will never forget this. And my keeper came up to me and said, ‘Marla, you need to know that that referee asked to check my gloves for knives before the game started. And I said what? Why didn’t you tell me this? Because we had to keep our focus,” Coach Grier explained.
With a focused and determined group, Coach Grier led South Sioux City to its first ever state title.
“It was a sea of red in the crowd and as soon as the final whistle, the crowd just erupted and I myself felt joy watching my previous teammates win a state championship,” Coach Galvan said.
“They blew the whistle on that final game, I remember thinking ‘Oh my god, we did it,” Coach Grier said.
This state championship would earn South Sioux City promotion to Class A for the 2014 season.
“We went to state and did well. That’s how that season ended and we were positive for what would come in the future,” Coach Grier added.
After the 2014 season, Coach Grier would call it a career after 18 years as Head Coach. Grier would go on to coach teams at South Sioux City Soccer Club and be a board member for the club organization.
“One thing I kept trying to impress upon them is when you become parents, you need to be involved with your children, you need to know what’s going on, you need to be coaching, and they were listening,” Coach Grier said.