Sheree Gray Dillard is prepared to take on the next challenge in her soccer career.
Dillard has completed a brilliant career as a soccer player, a tenure that was highlighted by playing for the United States Women’s National Team. As a player on that elite squad, she participated in the 2004 World Cup and the 2005 and 2006 Nordic Cup.
As the summer winds down and the fall athletic season approaches, Dillard will transform into a coach. She was appointed as the head girls’ soccer coach at the Ranney School earlier this summer.
Dillard is excited about the opportunity to teach the game she loves.
“The decision was pretty easily actually,” Dillard said. “Once you’re done playing soccer, you want to pass down the things that you learned to the next generation.”
When she played at the scholastic level, she earned numerous awards, including All-State honors, at Toms River High School South.
She went on to excel in college at Penn State University, where she was named the Forward of the Year by Parade Magazine in 2004. As a freshman, Dillard started and helped Penn State advance to the College Cup semifinals.
Dillard will rely on her experience to assist in her development as a coach.
“Once you get to a certain level, it gets very competitive,” Dillard said. “To play at that level, you have to have the mindset to train several times a day. It’s very intense. Playing at a high level for so long, you learn so much. You learn to work hard — to give your best effort all the time. That’s what they will learn soon.”
Natalie Gorman, who is also new at Ranney, where she will serve as the athletic director at the school in Tinton Falls, is confident that Dillard will lean on her past to develop a solid program.
“She is one of the all-time best soccer players to grow up in the Shore Conference, and her experience both as a collegiate and professional player gives her the knowledge she needs to continue to build the girls’ soccer program at Ranney,” Gorman said.
Dillard revealed that she can’t wait for the season to start. Tryouts for the soccer teams are being held this week.
“I’m not nervous at all, more just excited to start this journey with a great group of girls,” Dillard said. “From what I’ve seen, they showed me that they want to win at a high level. It’s hard to be nervous when you have such a great group of girls. I haven’t known them yet personally or even on a soccer skill level, but I can just tell they are special.”
Dillard will share her philosophy with her Ranney players.
“I tend to stress possession,” Dillard said. “In soccer, possession is so important. If you have possession, you control the game. If you control the game, it’s pretty hard to lose.”
There is more to soccer than the basic skills required, however.
“I want to teach them the beauty of the game,” Dillard said. “Soccer is such a beautiful game. I want them to learn the intelligence of the game. That will make them even better players.”