SOMETIMES THINGS aren’t what they appear to be. After the class bell has sounded, she’s mistaken for a student remaining in the halls. She’s often asked to point out the head coach of the boys soccer team. At 23, Caragan Treola easily recalls roaming the Lincoln County High School (LCHS) halls and hitting its soccer field, but today she sits on the other side of the desk and stands on the sideline. Treola is home.
Home, where her parents encouraged her to play soccer and pursue a career in education through a soccer scholarship at Bryan College in Dayton, Tennessee. Home, where Fayetteville’s close-knit community puts its arms around you during hard times and warmly greets you in all seasons. Home, at LCHS, where many were once her teachers but are now her co-workers. Home, where she invests in her students and athletes like her teachers and coaches did for her.
Treola said, “I had so many people that poured into me over the years in the education side of things, especially through sports. Many of them I still talk to regularly. I have people, especially a few college coaches, I can call anytime, and they would walk me through anything, not just sports. They were mentors. And that’s the side that I’ve really enjoyed about coaching. Now I’m able to pour into these kids.”
Treola teaches world history, a subject she loves, thanks to her history teachers.
“History is history. At the nitty gritty, you can’t change history, and that’s what I was drawn to. My sixth and ninth-grade history teachers were the ones who made me love it at an early age. Put me in a math class, and I’m over it. But I love history,” she said.
As assistant coach of the girls soccer team and head coach of the boys soccer team, Treola has many opportunities to influence young lives.
“This generation is different from mine, and it’s so funny to say that because I’m only five to 10 years removed from these kids. I’ve had to understand and accept that. I’ve had to adjust my teaching or coaching style to what helps them,” Treola said. “I try to understand what fits them best and how to meet their needs, not just in the history classroom, but in life. I hope to help them grow as a person, not just a student or a player. I want these kids to leave here and impact society in some way. I want them to find something they’re passionate about and go for it. Why not?”
Treola returned to LCHS as the assistant coach of the girls soccer team, assisting head coach Roger LaPlant who coached her as a student. When the head coach position for the boys team became available for her consideration, she knew the position was male-dominated.
She said, “I decided to think about it. I went back and forth. I talked to my parents. I wondered what’s the worst I might do. Finally, I decided this was something I could put my heart into and roll with it. It’s been crazy this first year, but seeing these boys growing as soccer players and young men is so much fun. I’m loving that they’re developing their game, and they’re developing as human beings.”
But she still doesn’t look like your typical high school boys head soccer coach.
“It’s really funny when people walk up to me, and they’re like, ‘Oh, where’s your coach?’ And I say, ‘Hi, that’s me.’ I think I’ve only met one other [high school boys soccer] female head coach, and she was in Alabama. I don’t know what the numbers look like in our area, but I have rarely met one,” Treola said.
Despite her youth, she strives to make a difference on and off the field.
“I’m a young person. I don’t just want to be somebody that graduated from and works at Lincoln County High School,” she said.” I really want to be someone that impacts [the students]. Maybe it’s not in the classroom, or maybe it’s not on this field, but I impact them in a way that helps them succeed in life somewhere along the lines.”
From encouraging students to follow their dreams to supporting them in their daily life struggles, Treola sees their needs and struggles firsthand.
“It has been eye-opening. You hear little rumblings of what someone’s dealing with at home when you’re a student, but it’s different being on the flip side of it as an educator,” she said. “Hearing from the guidance counselor or the student about their situation at home or the reality they’re living in, you feel for them, but you also look at them and realize they’re doing so good considering their situation. You want to be that support system, tell them they can do this, and remind them they don’t have to stay in the little box people put them in. Being their cheerleader and helping them along the way instead of breaking them down is my goal.”
She’s already discovered it’s a challenging but rewarding journey.
“I feel like I’ve been teaching forever, but then I realize I’ve only been teaching for two years. I’ve just finished my second year, but it’s really fun,” Treola said.
And doing what you love while making an impact at home makes it even sweeter.
“Going away to college showed me there’s a lot more out there than just Fayetteville, Tennessee, and there are definitely things you should experience in life,” she said. “But it also brought me back down to Earth; home is home. You can’t change it; you accept it for what it is. But you also love it for what it is.”
Treola is home. GN