No matter where Katie Scali was during the past few years, her mind always wandered to where she felt she should have been.
Whether she was coaching the Flowery Branch High girls soccer team, working in the classroom there or trying to be a supportive wife to husband and Piedmont College baseball coach Justin, her obligations always pulled her in different directions.
But what tore at Scali most was daughter Eva, whose care often fell to relatives or family friends during the hectic springtime. That was ultimately what convinced Scali to resign Tuesday from her position as the Lady Falcons’ coach, even after the most successful season in program history.
“Basically, for five months of the year, we almost always had to rely on others to pick up (Eva), get her dinner and everything else she needs,” said Scali, who will remain a teacher at the school. “And now she’s getting older and has her own activities, like church, ballet lessons or school events. I was missing out on a lot of those things.”
Flowery Branch athletic director Jimmy Lawler said the school immediately began its search for a new coach and had already received a few résumés as of Tuesday.
He also said he fully understands Scali’s decision, having experienced similar conflicts during his career. While Lawler lamented losing the guiding force of the school’s girls soccer program, he knew for a while Scali had been mulling over vacating the position.
“She agonized over it,” he said.
But once Scali made the decision to step down about halfway through this season, she said she did nothing but enjoy the final days of her 10-year stint with the team.
The Lady Falcons gave her plenty to rejoice about.
Flowery Branch picked up steam during the back half of the season and made a surprising run to the state semifinals after missing the playoffs for two straight years. A dramatic victory in penalty kicks against Starr’s Mill sent the second-seeded Lady Falcons to that stage, where they lost 5-2 against eventual Class 5A champion McIntosh last Tuesday.
But Scali said she never had any second thoughts about leaving the program, not after the struggles she endured during recent years.
First there was the difficulty of crafting Eva’s schedule — figuring out who would shuttle her to and from events, as well as who would watch her while both her parents coached. That often created an extra burden for those lending a hand in 7-year-old Eva’s care.
“There were a lot of late nights for her grandparents, her godmother or our friends,” Scali said. “But we were really blessed. We didn’t ever have a lack of help.”
The situation worsened when Justin, after spending 12 years as an assistant at Piedmont, was promoted to head coach this season. The demands of being a head coach — both time and travel — limited the couple’s involvement in Eva’s life.
After tireless prayer and reflection, Scali determined where her priorities rested.
“I know ultimately being a wife and a mother are the jobs that no one else can do for my family,” she said. “As much as I love my girls on the team, somebody else can do that job.”
Scali last Thursday informed the Lady Falcons of her decision, one she had been pondering for the past two years. She leaves having amassed a 116-66-6 record, seven playoff appearances and three region championships during her tenure with Flowery Branch.
“She has built a good program,” Lawler said. “We feel good about the soccer program and its status right now. … It will be very tough to replace Katie, but the program is in good shape because of her. We’ll be careful in finding somebody to continue what she has done — not just the winning tradition on the soccer field, but also grooming young ladies off the field.”
Now Scali can turn her attention toward her family and the young daughter she has yearned to spend more time with.
Though she said circumstances sometimes made her role with the Flowery Branch girls soccer team “mentally exhausting,” she’s already looking back on that time with nothing but fondness.
“I’m really grateful for it. I learned so much about myself and people from coaching,” Scali said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m at peace with decision, especially with the way it ended.”