Sara Geiger, 22, is finishing her first year as a math teacher and head girls soccer coach at St. Pius. The 2003 Parkview grad and former player at Samford University led St. Pius to a state runner-up finish this spring.
In this latest installment of "Getting to Know ...," the 2003 Daily Post player of the year talks with sports editor Will Hammock on a variety of subjects, ranging from missing her sister's state title to her athletic family to her soccer career.
WH: So we almost had two Geiger state soccer champions this spring (her sister Megan won as a Parkview player).
SG: To be honest, I wish we would have had two. It was really cool with my sister playing in it and having me coaching. It was hard that I didn't get to see any of her games in the playoffs and she didn't get to see any of mine. But it was a big deal for our family.
WH: How hard was it not being there when Megan and Parkview played for a state title?
SG: My family means more to me than anything. Being the oldest, being able to watch all of them grow up, I felt like a second mother. That's what they call me anyway. It was hard not to be there. I wanted to be there.
WH: How did you get the St. Pius head job at such a young age?
SG: Sometimes I ask myself the same thing. Mr. (Steve) Spellman, the principal at St. Pius, was at a Christmas party with me and I was a senior in college. His neighbor's son is my really good friend. Some parents were asking me what I was going to do and I told them I was a math major, looking to be a teacher. I decided to be a teacher too late to get certified.
I went into this long answer to the parents about before I am a coach, I am a teacher. I'm in a classroom on a day-to-day basis to help these kids. As cliche as it sounds, I can influence kids in my classroom and if I can impact one kid and they can impact another kid and change their lives, I'm doing my job. ... So I said all that and a man asked, "Would you want to work for me?' It was Mr. Spellman.
I had met him before because his son and daughter went to Parkview. So I said, "Oh, hi Mr. Spellman.' I came to interview, didn't have a varsity coach, a JV, they had no coaches. I assumed I was interviewing for JV or for an assistant coach because I am young. But I interviewed with academics and the athletic director and a couple of weeks later they asked me if I wanted to be the head coach and a math teacher. I was kind of blown away.
WH: Is it harder being on the sideline or in the game?
SG: It's harder being on the sidelines. I never thought I would say that. It's so hard to watch and not really physically be able to do anything. When I was playing I could get them going on the field or make something happen.
As a coach, you're putting the girls in the right positions so they can perform to the best of their ability and hopefully they get it done. My girls constantly got it done for me. Everybody was telling me great job, but it was the girls that got the work done.
WH: Who had the most influence in you being a teacher and coach?
SG: No. 1 is my mother (Cherrie, a teacher at Parkview). She always said, "You're going to be a teacher. I can tell.' I denied it and denied it. I worked a summer camp and I decided I wanted to be a teacher just like my mom. Just going to Parkview games and seeing everyone flock to her, feed off her positive energy, it really made an impact on me and made me want to be a teacher.
I don't think it was different soccer coaches who made me want to coach, it was just the love of the game. I just couldn't imagine doing without it. In high school, Coach (Mark) Albertus and Coach (Todd) Yelton in college definitely influenced me.
WH: Do you work your players as hard as Albertus? Do you two have the same coaching style?
SG: Not even just Albertus but Coach Yelton worked our butts off in college, too. If you were to talk to any of my coaches, and I guess I'm bragging on myself here, it wasn't because I was fast or because I had the most skill that made me a good player. It was because I worked hard. It's what every single person needs to have in life. I got that from my dad (Jerry). He's worked harder than anyone I know to provide for our family.
You're not stepping on the field (for me) if you're not working harder or just as hard as anyone else. If someone's not pushing you, you're not trying to get better. I've been there before and done it myself. I still do it with them. Sometimes I run with them - until I pulled my hamstring. Then they made fun of me and called me old.
WH: You come from a pretty athletic family. Where do you rank in the most talented (younger sister Jessica plays basketball at Georgia Southern and younger sister Megan is a college soccer prospect)?
SG: We're all very different. I'm the workhorse. I work hard. Jessica's the most naturally talented. She has very good form in everything. Her shot is beautiful, everything. She has perfect form in tennis. Megan is very much this vicious, feisty, don't touch me, plow through you person. We're all different and we definitely have family competitions to see who's better at different sports. That's what made us such great athletes, we were always competing.
WH: How competitive were you and your siblings growing up?
SG: If we were playing Monopoly, we were fighting over who was going to win. One of funniest things, one of reasons we're tough, is my dad. He watched wrestling with us Monday nights. We wrestled with him and he'd throw us. We'd wrestle with each other. That's why we were tough little girls. On the swim team it was always who could swim the fastest. In the sports we actually played, like we'd never play 1 v. 1 soccer, in soccer. We'd mainly go to the backyard and play horse.
WH: All three Geiger sisters have Parkview state titles now, that seems like a lot of pressure on your younger brother (11-year-old Jared, who plays football, baseball and basketball).
SG: It is. We've talked about it before. We had pressure last year for Megan because she was in the state championship game. She knew that. As the oldest, I made my way and did what we did. I had a state championship thank goodness. Actually Jessica won a state championship before I did because they won basketball before we won (soccer). If I didn't win, she would have rubbed that in my face for a long time. Jared does have a little bit of pressure and some things to live up to. He's a good athlete, he's young and we don't know which sport is his favorite yet.
WH: The Geigers could give the Francoeurs a good run for top Parkview families.
SG: I think we have a couple of more kids than they do. We're just an athletic family.
Dad played everything and mom played everything. Dad was a state champion wrestler, played football, basketball and baseball. He loves to tell us he blocked some field goal to win a championship, I think a region championship not a state championship. He would have wrestled in college, but he blew out his knee.
My mom swam her whole life and swam at Georgia. She was a swimmer and tennis player. She was a cheerleader and we always made fun of her for that.
WH: What was it like scoring that last goal of your high school career (a game-tying goal with 36 seconds left to split the state championship with rival Brookwood)?
SG: Anyone I talk to about soccer, that was one of the best moments ever. I just remember crying and watching people walk out of the stadium (as the last minute ticked off). I was already in tears, seeing the clock wind down before the game was over. I guess it's a prime example of what kind of soccer player I was. I wasn't going to stop until the game was over. Then it was like God was giving me the opportunity, here it is, you can do it.
WH: Do you play soccer much anymore?
SG: I play with the girls at practice definitely. I started playing on this women's team and it was every Sunday. To be honest, I wanted my Sundays for me and to have time to grade papers. One of my coaches coaches Silverbacks, so I go out and train with them some. I'm not on the team, I'm just an extra player if they need one.
WH: What are your long-term plans in teaching and coaching? Do you think you'll do this until retirement?
SG: Yeah. This is what I plan on doing. I plan on being a teacher and coach until I retire. Someday I hope to be, I've always told people one of my lifelong dreams is be teacher of the year for the whole United States of America. That would be really cool.