Woodland girls soccer coach Nicole Heiser recently finished up her first year in charge of the Wildcats.
Even more recently, the former Division-I player got to experience having one of her own players sign to play at the collegiate level with recent graduate Molly Plott heading to Shorter.
“Obviously, it’s really exciting for me, being a first-year head coach and getting a girl to go sign,” Heiser said. “It’s exciting for the program in moving in the right direction, as well as being exciting for her, because I know she’s excited for it.”
A few months ago, Plott attended a camp at the Rome-based school. Afterwards, coaches told her they had a spot for her if she wanted it.
After taking a few days to weigh her options, Plott made the decision to join the Hawks.
“I just loved the people, I loved the atmosphere they gave off,” she said. “I wanted to be somewhere I enjoyed all the people around me.”
“If I was going to play, I was going to play there. I already knew that,” Plott added. “It was just trying to decide if college soccer is right for me and if I was going to be able to live that kind of lifestyle as a college athlete. Eventually, I decided that I really wanted to try.”
She’ll have a quick turnaround. Having spent the spring playing for Woodland, Plott will play in the fall for Shorter.
“It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet,” Plott said of preparing to start college. “Sometimes, I try to sit down and think about it, but it doesn’t seem real yet. I’m sure soon — I think I move in at the end of July — when that all starts happening, I’ll have a big realization moment. I’ll be terrified, but I’m really excited.”
Getting to attend school close to home seems likely to ease the transition for Plott.
“It just worked out that way,” she said. “I’m only like 20 minutes away from my house. I won’t be far away from my family. I won’t miss out on my baby sister growing up. She’s almost 4, so I won’t miss her birthday or anything like that. I can come home, which is a plus.
“I love my family. I don’t want to be far, far away. I’m just glad it worked out that way.”
One of the hardest things for Plott, who has three siblings in total, will probably be not getting to see her father every day. Tony Plott, who has spent the past four seasons as Woodland’s head football coach, definitely made a significant impact on his daughter.
Even though he wasn’t the one coaching her, Tony Plott certainly raised a typical coach’s kid.
“No one would be able to say otherwise,” Heiser said. “Definitely a coach’s kid.”
So what does that mean for Shorter?
“They’re definitely going to get someone who works extremely hard,” Heiser said. “… She always had a positive attitude. They’re going to be lucky to get someone who can hustle and never give up.”
She added, “One of the things I noticed about her was that every single time I pulled her off [during a game], before she even got water, it was ‘Hey, what did I do? How can I improve?’ As a coach, it’s great to have somebody who is constantly wondering how they can improve, how they can get better. Even in the last game of the season, that didn’t change. … She’s always had that attitude of ‘I just want to get better.’”
Molly Plott admitted to fitting the “coach’s kid” mold, and she wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“It’s just kind of how I was raised,” she said. “I’m glad I was. I wouldn’t be doing any of this if my dad wasn’t a coach, making me do the things I did. I actually really love it, so he was a good motivator.”
Even still, Plott said she considered giving up soccer after middle school. The game wasn’t as fun as it had once been.
Ironically, her decision to keep playing came after she made it onto a different team. Late in her eighth-grade year, Plott successfully tried out for the cheerleading team. Seeing how proud that accomplishment made her parents, she decided to continue playing soccer.
The passion returned, and now, she can’t imagine her life without the sport.
“Deciding in middle school to play soccer, keep up with it and not quit like I had thought about was probably one of the best things about high school — if not the best thing,” Plott said. “I wouldn’t have traded my teammates or any of my coaches for anything. I’m so glad I didn’t stop after middle school and kept going.”
It’s fitting that Plott found a home on the field at Wildcat Stadium, because that’s where plenty of her best high school memories were made, even outside of soccer.
There were countless Friday nights cheering on Woodland as her dad paced the sideline. There was the Paulding County football game her senior year, when Plott, escorted by her dad, was named homecoming queen. And just weeks ago, there was graduation, when Plott received her diploma and a hug from her dad.
Through it all, Heiser said Molly Plott has learned how to perfectly balance the kindness needed away from the field with the competitiveness required on it.
“She’s definitely a full, well-rounded person,” Heiser said. “I don’t think I ever heard a negative thing out of her all season. She’s a very positive person. I don’t think that anyone could not like her. …
“Outside of [soccer], she’s the sweetest girl you’ll ever meet, but on that soccer field, I’m like, ‘Whoa, this is not the Molly I see in the hallway,’ which is always good. You want your athletes to be like that. Great people away from the field, but on the field, they’re not going to let people walk all over them.”
Plott’s ability to be the kind of teammate that can teach younger players extended even beyond the end of the season.
Her signing ceremony provided the first glimpse at the potential to play college soccer for Woodland’s up-and-coming players. It’s allowed Heiser, who played at Georgia Southern and Jacksonville State, to take the opportunity to explain to her Wildcats what it takes to get to that point.
“Just even today, her signing showed a lot of interest to the freshmen who just played soccer for the first time in high school this year,” Heiser said. “They’re already like, ‘What can I do to get to this point?’ … It’s definitely getting their wheels turning, thinking, ‘Could that be me someday?’ I thought that was really cool.”