Gilbert Christian’s girls soccer program had been suspended since 2011 with a lack of numbers.
That changed last year when former Cardinals kicker Jay Feely’s daughter Lexi was a freshman looking to play on a soccer team.
“I said you guys have to have a girls team,” Feely said. “They said, ‘We don’t have a coach.’ I said, ‘All right, I’ll do it.’ ”
A girls soccer program was resurrected.
After going 8-6 with just 11 girls on the team last year, Feely has 18 players, including his daughter, a sophomore defender. They have put together a 13-1-1 record with their final regular-season game today (Thursday) against Scottsdale Prep.
The state brackets will be released Friday.
Gilbert Christian currently is No. 4 in the 3A Conference, according to the MaxPreps/Arizona Interscholastic Association power rankings.
Feely makes it work, despite travel demands as an NFL and college football analyst for CBS Sports.
He missed his first game Monday, a 6-0 home win over Gilbert Classical, after his flight from Boston got canceled. He was part of the broadcast crew for the AFC championship game in New England last Sunday when the Patriots beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“It’s tough,” said Feely, who kicked 14 years in the NFL, including a stint with the Cardinals from 2010-13. “I travel all the time. The good thing is, it’s a winter sport. College season is over by the time the (high school soccer games) start. I have a little more time.”
Feely’s last season in the NFL was 2014 with the Chicago Bears.
He and his wife and four children decided to settle down in the Valley. Gilbert Christian is a PK-12 school.
“We loved it here,” he said. “We loved the school. That’s the biggest reason we stayed. My kids were in school doing well, getting good grades. We didn’t want to make a change. It’s hard when things are going well to uproot them again.”
Feely tries to pass on NFL knowledge to his players, but it goes over their heads.
“We’re at Fountain Hills, which is the best team in the state, they won it last year, and give a speech,” Feely said. “I say, you know who (Patriots coach) Bill Belichick is. They had no idea what I was talking about. I said, ‘This is the Bill Belichick model to coaching. We’re going to do this. They’re like, ‘OK, Coach.’ ”
Suggest human interest stories to Richard Obert at email@example.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him at azc_obert