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WENDELL — Katlin Burns has known soccer from every side of the game.
All of that experience, which has led Burns to sinking her teeth into her first head coaching position as the recently-named new Corinth Holders girls soccer head coach, has made her particularly qualified to lead the program forward.
“I saw a position for teaching open up and I saw a position for a head coach for soccer open. I jumped on it because, why not?” Burns said. “I really wanted to get into high school soccer and I thought this would be the best place to do it.”
Burns takes over as just the second girls soccer coach at Corinth Holders, replacing Allison Vetterl, who left the school before the year started, but had coached the program since the school opened in 2010.
Last season, the Pirates finished off a 14-8-1 campaign in the second round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4-A playoffs. Each season since 2014, the program has made the playoffs, including a runner-up finish in the state championship in 2018 that made the program the first from Johnston County to reach the title game.
From a position of strength in the program, Burns wants to build on that success.
“I hear really good things about the girls and the program,” Burns said. “I just hope to build on it.”
The prospects of your first job leading a program comes with its fair share of challenges and excitement, but Burns brings a variety of perspectives to the table as both a player and coach that she says will help her in her new role.
“I’ve had a bunch of different views,” Burns said. “So I’m well rounded in that aspect.”
Burns, who grew up in Lawndale and learned the fundamentals of the game there, played club soccer in Cleveland County and matriculated at Burns High School. At the school with no relation to her last name, she became well-known on the pitch and eventually earned a scholarship to play at Division-2 Brevard College when she graduated in 2013.
In the college ranks, Burns contributed for the Tornados all over the field, playing seemingly every position except goalkeeper. As an underclassmen, she played forward and midfielder, then, as a senior captain, she played defender and had one of her best seasons.
At the end of her playing career, she transitioned into coaching. Since graduating from Brevard College, she has spent time as an assistant coach at Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy in Mooresboro, a volunteer assistant role with the women’s program at Gardner-Webb University and most recently, a graduate assistant spot at Salem College, coaching along Octavia Saunders, who was an assistant at Brevard when Burns played there.
Her winding journey as a player and coach on soccer fields across the state has prepared her to set her own standards as a head coach.
Her immediate plans include focusing on team chemistry, which she said can help a team achieve its full potential, as well as instituting a “possessive” style of play that incorporates the contributions of many.
“I’m not sure what their style of play is, but I’m hoping to build a more possessive style of play, not just kick and run, not saying that’s what they did last time,” Burns said. “I want them to learn the game of soccer in a possessive way, building from the back and involving everybody from the goalkeeper to the backline forward.”
Burns will have plenty of players at her disposal to learn to play a team-driven style. As part of her first few weeks in the job, she’s been holding soccer interest meetings during lunch. On Thursday, she held her second interest meeting and 42 girls showed up, which would be plenty for a deep varsity and junior varsity roster.
Corinth Holders will begin tryouts in the second week of February. By March 3, Burns will patrol the sidelines for her first game against Smithfield-Selma in the Neuse River Futbol Alliance Cup.
Burns doesn’t pretend to know everything; she knows it will take some time to learn how to handle close games or what to say to her team after a tough loss.
But more than anything, she’s excited to begin a new era for the Corinth Holders girls soccer program.
“The exciting parts are that it’s my program and I get to build it how I want. I get to create that relationship with the kids,” Burns said. “The head coach and assistant coaches have different relationships with each player, so I’m excited to start building those relationships.”