Sharks are in the water, on the golf course, running track and volleyball court
Sharks have been spotted in the water near Destin. Not only in the water, but on the golf course, the volleyball court and even at Morgan Sports Center.
The Destin High School Shark athletic program is up and running, with four teams already practicing for competition.
“We are very excited that our Destin High School fall sports program is in high gear with practices and competitions beginning,” said Athletic Director Phil Dorn.
“It is a credit to the Destin High School community, especially our students and coaches who have worked so hard to get our athletic program moving forward. The Destin community will be proud of the product that we are working hard to represent,” Dorn added.
And the community is stepping up to let the school use facilities all around town to practice and play, from gyms to golf courses and pools.
First to compete will be the Shark golf team under coach Jacob Hill, the golf professional at Indian Bayou Golf and Country Club. Indian Bayou also will be the host site for all team practices and matches.
The Sharks will play a match with the South Walton Seahawks on Aug. 25 at Origins Golf Club near Camp Creek.
“This will be a good opportunity,” Hill said of the team.
The Sharks have seven golfers, five boys and two girls who are mostly freshmen, with one junior and one sophomore.
More from Destin High:Community comes out to celebrate grand opening of Destin High
“It’s a younger team ... been a lot of adjusting for them from middle school distances, because it’s a pretty big jump to high school tees,” he said.
Hill, a 2015 graduate of South Walton High, played for the Seahawks and later started the PGA program at the Pensacola Country Club. For the past year he has been the golf pro on staff at Indian Bayou in Destin.
He jumped at the chance to coach the new high school golf team.
“It seemed like it would be a good thing. I’ve always wanted to help. I had a lot of fun playing high school golf,” Hill said.
The team is on the golf course three days a week and is “looking good. We’re just working on getting better,” Hill added.
“I want to teach them how to play the golf course and more about strategy, not just how to hit it. Let’s learn how to actually play a match or play a tournament,” he said.
Coaching the first golf team at a new school is “exciting,” Hill said.
“It’s my first time to coach a team itself. I teach a lot of lessons out here, but coaching a team is a whole different animal, but it’s been fun so far,” Hill said.
Second up for Destin High is the Shark volleyball team. They will travel to Niceville on Aug. 26 to take on the Eagles.
Brinley Kennady, a former coach at Tate High School in Pensacola, has been working with the girls since mid-July doing skills training, with the first official practice about the first of August.
More community support:Destin High School has a big yellow bus, thanks to the Phillips family
Kennady has 27 players and “a lot more are interested,” she said.
“So, it looks like we are going to continue to grow, which I’m OK with,” she added.
The Sharks are practicing and will play their matches in the Life Center at Destin United Methodist Church.
“The facility that we have is so nice and we are so grateful for that,” Kennady said.
The Sharks have a wide range of skill levels on the team.
“Right now, they are doing pretty well for a new program. A lot of them are brand new to the sport. Some have played backyard volleyball, or church leagues or maybe at the beach sometime. But over half of them are new to the sport,” Kennady said.
Working with different skill levels is nothing new for Kennady.
"I knew coming in that was exactly how it was going to be. I knew it was going to be a challenge. But I was excited to take on a challenge,” she said.
“I’ve been part of rebuilding programs, very new volleyball teams where players have never played before, just starting out from the basic fundamentals of the sport and teaching it. So, I knew it would be a good opportunity for me to be a part of this program,” she added.
“And so far, so good. I’m actually loving it,” Kennady said before she headed into another practice last week.
She spoke highly of Dorn and Principal Christine Cruickshank and how they have made her feel at home.
Right now, the Sharks have 15 games on the schedule and a tournament coming up in Foley, Alabama, during the Labor Day weekend.
“So far they are meshing well together,” she said of the team.
More from Destin High:Destin High Shark band has a wide range of experience, but happy and eager
Although everybody wants to win, coach included, effort and hustle is very important, Kennady said.
“Effort you have to have your whole life,” she said. “I can want to coach them to win games all season long, but the more important thing is effort and them showing that all the time. At school, outside of practice and during games.”
She said the Sharks will play a junior varsity/freshman schedule against the larger 4A and 6A schools, but for schools that are on the same level they will run a varsity and junior varsity program.
The Destin High Sharks will take to the pool at the Aquatic Center on Aug. 28 in a meet with Choctawhatchee and other area schools at 2 p.m.
The coach is Brad Kale.
Kale, of Tennessee, brings more than 30 years of coaching experience, from beginning swimmers to Olympic trial qualifiers. For the past 12 years, he has been the head coach of Coast Aquatics. As an athlete, Kale swam at the University of Kentucky, where he earned multiple national championship qualifying times.
As of last week, Kale had 10 athletes out for the team.
“For a brand-new school, that’s a good start,” Kale said, noting that he expects the team to double and triple in size in the next couple years.
Right now he’s got a mix of swimmers. Kale said he had one swimmer who hasn’t been on a competitive team before and others who “have run the gamut.”
The Sharks have been in the water for a couple weeks.
“They have already made significant progress,” Kale said as the team swam laps working on various strokes and skills.
"This year is about learning about competitive swimming and what it is all about,” Kale said.
“We’re pretty excited,” he added.
Mike Phillips heads up the Shark cross country team.
Phillips has been a cross country and track coach for 23 years, the past five at Lawton Chiles High School in Tallahassee. While at Chiles, the boys' teams were three-time state runners-up in cross country.
At Destin, however, every sport is starting from ground zero.
“Unfortunately, the sport I coach is not the sport where kids are really excited if they haven’t done it before,” he said.
Phillips explained that some kids want to try out for football or golf, but to tell them, “Hey, you want to just come out and run a bunch of miles after school when it’s stifling hot?”
“It will be building from complete scratch … but we’re up for it,” Phillips said.
Last week, he had six athletes and four more who were waiting on paperwork to come through, which should bring his team up to 10.
The Sharks are using Morgan Sports Center, which has a running path that weaves around the ball fields.
Out of the 10 on the team, less than half have run cross country competitively before.
For the time being, “It’s getting these guys to understand the mental aspect of it as well as the physical aspect of it,” he said. “Running cross country is a very mental sport … so they are coming with no experience in both those aspects.”
Cross country for high school is 3.1 miles, a 5K. Middle schoolers run 2-mile events.
“Right now, we're just building up to running the whole 3.1 miles without walking,” he said.
“Basically, this first year, I’m looking for any meet on the Panhandle,” he said, noting he wants to keep them local.
But nothing is on the schedule of yet.