In the 2023-24 school year, Marietta will begin it’s first-ever competitive soccer program. The district recently hired it’s first-ever soccer coach, but it won’t be a new face on campus because Ryan Keeton is already employed in the district.

“Soccer is going to serve a tremendous number of students and has a fantastic support youth program to feed into it, and Coach Keeton is the perfect person to head the program,” said Athletic Director Alex Doby. “Coach Keeton was instrumental in the start of soccer at Ardmore High School. He built that program, logistics and all, from the ground up. And he is a great role model and mentor to his students and players.”

Keeton is in his third year with the district, and he already knows the kids from having coached them in other sports, which should be a bonus that’ll work in his favor as he begins the inaugural season of soccer. Good news.

Since Keeton has already started a program and coached both boys and girls soccer teams, he knows what he’s up against, so that’s good news, too.

And even better news, Keeton is fired up and ready to do the same thing at Marietta.

“We’re excited about the program, hopeful that a lot of kids come out,” Keeton said.

He knows that there will be hurdles. Those are inherent with any new program. No way around it.

“One of the challenges will be getting kids to understand the difference between playing rec soccer like they’re used to and playing competitive soccer,” explained Keeton. “Playing soccer recreationally doesn’t hold kids accountable academically, but in order to play competitive soccer in schools, they have to pass to play.

“That’s a good thing because it promotes the importance of academics, but it may take some getting used to. I hope that the kids who are really serious about soccer will become serious students, too.”

According to Keeton, helping kids to realize how important academics are is one of his biggest priorities.

“My goal is for kids to be successful after high school, which means providing them with the academic opportunities they need” he said, “and I stay in touch after they graduate to make sure they’re staying on track.”

When it comes to Marietta, particularly the school district, Keeton has some skin in the game, so to speak. He has several family members who’ve grown up, lived in the area, and attended Marietta Public Schools.

“I’m hoping this soccer program draws kids from the area because I want to do my part to help make Marietta the place where parents want to bring their kids to school and kids want to attend,” concluded Keeton.

Although the district will field competitive teams during the 2023-24 school year – teams that’ll have a win-loss record – they will not enter the playoffs for the first two years.

“The first two years will allow us to get our feet wet and see what it’s all about before entering district play,” Keeton remarked.

Playoffs or not, the soccer program is one that students have long campaigned for, and Keeton looks forward to hitting the ground running next year.