Youth Spotlight: Georgia U-15 girls’ team playing for departed coach’s memory
By Roger Gonzalez
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a new series profiling people, places and stories in the youth game. This piece looks at one Georgia team’s plans to pay tribute to their departed coach at the Jefferson Cup, an elite youth tournament in Richmond, Va. next month and for the entire spring season. They will compete in the Jeff Cup’s Girls weekend March 16-18.
Atlanta, Ga. side NASA G15 Elite has one thing on its mind heading into March’s Jefferson Cup in Richmond, Va.
It isn’t lifting a trophy that is on the girls’ minds, nor is it to break scoring records or keeping clean sheets. It’s about remembrance and celebration.
The Under-15 side from Georgia will be remembering a man who, at various times, dressed up as a mohawked Leprechaun with green hair or as a huge human whoopee cushion just for laughs, a man who did everything he could to help others, while never taking life too seriously.
Jay Ingram, a coach at the club for over 10 years and a favorite among players and coaches, tragically died in late January after being struck by a car on a morning run.
“Jay has been a part of our club for 10 years,” girls’ director of coaching Eric Ritter said. “The best way to describe him was, he had an impact on everyone he came across.
“Everyone who met him remembers him, whether it was for five minutes or ten-plus years. He changed lives with everything he did.”
Ingram did a bit of everything for the club, coaching in the youth academy program and elite level teams. A graduate of Georgia State University, Ingram taught physical education at Kennesaw Charter Science and Math Academy.
There are over 350 girls currently playing with NASA, and in his memory, all will wear yellow socks during the spring season, representing Ingram’s favorite color.
“Jay was the best coach I ever had,” player Emma Osborne said. “One of the best pranks he played on me was when he took my soccer ball and put it in a mud puddle and got it all over me and my white jersey. I will miss him a lot!”
All will sport the socks, because everyone became familiar with the beloved coach and wanted to have something to remember him by during every second on the field.
“Basically, every player currently at the club had coach Jay as a coach,” Ritter said.
For him and the young ladies, it doesn’t get any easier realizing Ingram is gone, especially during preparation for the cup, looking for his laugh, smile or repetition of “Yeah baby!” to help them through the day.
“Kids are resilient,” Ritter said. “They are handling this a lot better than the adults are. [Wednesday] for instance was a rough night for some of the kids. It was the first night back on the actual field where they were coached by Jay in the fall (U-12 academy team).
“Some kids were quieter than normal. Some kids had a hard time getting out of their cars.”
With the long-lasting memories of a coach loved by all, Ritter will remember various lessons that Ingram taught him.
“To just live life to the fullest and enjoy the moments you’ve got,” Ritter said. “For the girls, it’s been rough. They understand the one thing if nothing else that Jay would want them to do is continue to play [and] have fun with it, live for the moment, be good to one another and love one another.
“He just loved life.”
Ingram is survived by his wife Corinne and two children, eight-year-old Aiden and four-year-old Kailyn, and hundreds of players who will play in his memory.
“Jay helped me develop a love for the game,” player Ashton Adams said. “He helped me have fun on the field and helped me become the player I am today. I’ll never forget him.”