For more than 20 years, Paul Dinkenor, a Leesville coach and teacher, has continued to build a dominant Pride soccer program that is one of the most well-known in North Carolina.
A member of the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association Field of Honor, Dinkenor is respected as a top coach in the area, having won multiple state and conference coach of the year awards. He has also won five NCHSAA 4A State Soccer Championships, two with the boys program in 1997 and 1999 and three with the girls in 2008, 2009, and 2011.
While most high schools have two separate coaches for the boys and girls soccer teams, Dinkenor has been able to lead both of the Pride’s teams for many years and has been able to have success with each squad.
Boys and girls play the game of soccer differently from one another, said Dinkenor, who played collegiate soccer and coached in England before coming to the United States. He said the guy’s game is a lot faster and physical while the lady’s game tends to be more focused on fundamentals and sharing the ball. Because of this, the way Dinkenor teaches soccer varies based on which gender he is coaching.
Dinkenor said that while the actual tactical training doesn’t change whether he is coaching the Leesville men’s or women’s team, he does have to take into account the difference in personalities between the two genders.
“With the girls, I try to give them a lot more space,” said Dinkenor. “The boys have no sensitivity, so it’s pretty brutal out there at times, and it’s obviously easier for me to be more myself.”
He also explained that it is important for him to think before he says anything to the girls players because they tend to be more sensitive to criticism. With the boys, however, Dinkenor has to control them from becoming what he jokingly calls “wild beasts” on the field.
Part of the reason Dinkenor believes that Leesville has had a successful soccer program is because he has been able to coach and lead great players.
“It all starts obviously with the kids,” said Dinkenor. He went on to say that many of the players he has coached have also been great students and have had the intelligence needed to play soccer at the high school level.
With great players comes great accomplishment, which Dinkenor and the Leesville community hope both teams will be able to obtain this year. The boys team currently has a 4-5-1 record and is 1-1 in CAP-8 conference play this season. The girls team anticipates on returning many of their top players this spring from their CAP-8 co-championship team last season.
Having been a coach for so long, Dinkenor did admit that his coaching career may be nearing an end.
“I don’t know how long I’m going to coach for,” said Dinkenor. “I just want to make the most of it and have success.”
Dinkenor said that his journey heading the Leesville soccer program has been continually enjoyable, even when the teams had a couple of losing seasons.
“It really has been fun,” said Dinkenor. “A lot of blood, sweat and tears.”