Konecek joined A-J football team coaching staff for this season
Carbondale native Sarah Konecek spent her youth as a soccer player and used the skills she learned to coach the boys’ soccer team at Anna-Jonesboro Community High School for the last two seasons.
This fall, Konecek used some of those skills to teach boys how not to kick a football.
Konecek is the only known female on a high school football coaching staff in Southern Illinois.
She studied physical education, teacher education and health education at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and later returned to earn her certification in special education and a master’s degree.
Konecek was hired on at A-JCHS in 2014 to teach girl’ physical education and to coach boys’ and girls’ soccer and girls basketball.
A-JCHS head football coach Brett Detering approached her this year to assist with the football team’s kicker, Sheldon McGrath.
“I’m not helping with the boys soccer this season anymore and I definitely missed some of the boys...I know Sheldon from soccer, so it was fun to help him again,” she said.
Though the majority of her athletic experience comes from soccer, she didn’t experience much trouble in the new sport.
“I know the correct way to kick a soccer ball, which Sheldon does,” she said.
“I also know the biomechanics of kicking a football and I can kick a football. It’s just putting those two together.”
She added that “the boys, even besides just Sheldon, are all really welcoming and the coaches, too. It’s been a smooth transition. It could’ve been rough, being the outsider.”
Konecek said that the most rewarding moment about coaching football was taking the football team to the playoffs, “and it clicking for them that I knew what I was talking about even though I was a girl coaching a boys sport, and I had the background. That was always a good feeling.”
She also shared an experience with JV kicker Dalton Seip.
“He got to kick one in the game against Sparta, and he made it. He was so excited. I was so happy for him. It was just a regular point after kick, and somebody got a...flag and it was moved back. I was just like, ‘Don’t be nervous. Don’t be nervous. He’s got this.’ And he got it.”
She noted that it was the kids and encouraging parents who made her feel accepted, even though she is not an A-JCHS native.