THE SOUTHSIDE HEAT Atlanta’s Teen Female Soccer Players

On a national platform, the US Women's' Soccer team has dominated and we can't get enough of the girl power! But little did you know Atlanta, Georgia has its own burgeoning girls' soccer team that's been kicking butt here too. However, on the heels of this year’s World Cup, the tide has begun to change. I introduce to you the Southside Heat and the future of Atlanta “futbol”.

The Heat just so happens to be a collective group of talented African American female athletes who’s been together since grade school and is currently a Top 50 ranked team by way of Soccer in College, and beating the odds with every successful season. In 2014, the squad acquired a new head coach, Reggie Askew, who made his mark as a standout high school player in Philadelphia, before moving on to test his skills at Auburn and Tuskegee University. These days, Coach Askew’s competitive fire is being wrought by a group of girls that ironically possesses the same fervor for the game as him.

Under the umbrella of the Tiger Soccer Club, the Heat was brought together by and large due to their undying love for the game and their unbreakable bond remains a central part of their DNA.

Coming off an undefeated fall season in 2014, which catapulted them into D Level competition and U14 play, the Heat has done so with a confident smile.

“Even though we don’t have the resources as far as access to nighttime fields and whatnot, I think our program is solid,” says Coach Askew. “[This can be] evidenced by the fact that we’re pulling from the selection of fourteen kids, versus our competition, which has 300-400, maybe even 1,000 kids to pull from to build a team. By that I’m pretty proud of what we’re doing.”

Last year The Heat consisted of only four fourteen year olds, with the majority of them ages 12-13 and a pool of sixteen kids to pull from. Inasmuch, as the only team of teenage African American girls in the city of Atlanta, their success is simply exceptional and well deserved. 

While its counterparts were likely napping in the dog days of summer, the Heat tuned up with Coach Domenic Martelli – an Olympic Development Region 3 board member and former West Point Military Academy Assistant Coach (Women) – who reinforced the basics during a development summer camp weeks before the new school year and season.

“What we did was we had them go through a session that was very similar to what a college team would go through,” says Martelli. “When you look at my sessions, pretty much every drill I did, every game that I played, every large group session, was something they had never done before.”

Placing the girls in unfamiliar environments, where they can absorb new facets of the game, is an ongoing strategy. And while Coach Askew is in favor of limiting the team’s summer month activities for much needed rest, the Heat prefer to lead an active lifestyle. Because in this sport, stars aren’t developed or discovered in the off season. They are groomed year round.

“Soccer is a skill that’s developed as a youth, then you learn all the nuances and tactics of the game,” says Coach. “You can be a terrific athlete and be competitive at soccer, but you would have to be super dedicated to training.”