HS Girls Soccer: Lady Highlander Invitational 2023; Coach Whitlock Interview

By: Julio Varguez
| Published 01/06/2023


THE WOODLANDS, TX – Frankie Whitlock took over as head coach for The Woodlands Lady Highlanders last year after Dina Graves retired. Not only did she inherit a legendary soccer program, she also inherited the Lady Highlander Invitational which has been going on for over 20 years. The Highlanders also participate in their Invitational.

We spoke with Coach Whitlock after their 1-0 win over Rockwall at the beginning of the tournament. She spoke on the team and what it takes to run such a big tournament like this in The Woodlands.

Q: How important are these games before district?
A: “These games are to get better against great competition. Weather the results is maybe not what you want or maybe it is what you want. You can’t bank on the result, you got to bank on how you’re getting better as a team.”

Q: How do you feel like your girls are playing so far.
A: “They are playing fantastic right now. We are rising to the level of competition. We are surpassing some goals that I’ve established right now, so those game goals will get even more detailed now. I think we are a few weeks ahead of the game than I thought we would be at this point. So, I am really pleased.
I don’t want to sit back on that saying, ‘Hey we are ready,’ because we are not quite ready yet. But, as long as we get closer to being ready every game and if this momentum carries through from game to game and even if we take a result we don’t want, we still get better from that result; we learn from that result. What matters is district play and post-season.”

Q: What about offensive and defense? What are you focusing more on this year?
A: “We’re focusing on all 11 being involved, as you saw today, every player had time on the ball and the development of going forward. We’re trying to get 10 back on the field behind that ball or bear that ball or lateral to that ball to make sure defensively we’ve covered all of that.
The transition in both is what we’re focusing on, getting up numbers ahead of the ball, getting back numbers behind the ball and making sure we’ve got the formation we’re running in the discipline of where they’re supposed to be.”

Q: Talk about the tournament, how are you feeling about it?
A: “This is 26 years, coach Graves established this back in 1997 and I was here with my Churchill group then and I’ve been coming to this tournament as a participant for 26 years and now being the host of it, whoa! Hats off to coach Graves.
Both venues are running very smoothly. I have an incredible volunteer and parent group, we have alumni on the golf carts right now that are helping us. My kids, when they’re not playing they are working, all three of the teams. So, it takes all of us and I bet you Saturday night The Woodlands Highlanders sleep really well.”

Q: Regarding the tournament, Are you trying to focus on changing anything? or is it perfect as it is?
A: “This runs like clockwork this has been established this long. And you know, the parents have volunteer for several years and parents ahead of them, they worked under though that group. Our parent volunteers, our leadership and all the coaches, from the staff down, it runs like clockwork.
The township giving us both facilities letting us run this incredible tournament. We have teams here from the Austin area from Dallas from East Texas from San Antonio. We have them from all over and it's because of the venues we're playing at and the referee staff that does a great job and our volunteers that run it. Our trainers are at both sites so they put in the time. I wouldn't change anything except let's keep the rain off if we can.”

Q:What is your ultimate goal with this tournament?
A: Great competition. Teams coming to play teams that they would never see in their region, possibly if I can do that with the schedule. Letting them play people that they don't line up against that they don't know about. And they're playing for their team's experience and getting better from that.
It's exciting to coaches light playing people they don't know or people that they would never see that maybe they read scores on going ‘Oh, we get to see that team.’
The soccer coach’s community is a tight knit group. We might know each other really well at TASCO [Texas Association of Soccer Coaches] or through the state but, our teams may never line up because we're in different regions. So, to criss cross those regions the best we can, it's exciting for those coaches to finally meet. Instead of talking the game with each other at TASCO, coaching the game against each other.
Everybody brings their teams this tournament one, for the competition, two, to get better and learn and three, to have a good time enjoy The Woodlands. Enjoy our facilities enjoy our hospitality and enjoy the time with your team to bond.”

The Lady Highlanders and the rest of the girl’s district soccer will start later this month. The Woodlands will open their season facing Oak Ridge at home.

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