Hughes couldn’t have asked for a better end to his 17-year coaching career after being named the 2014 Georgia private girls state coach of the year by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
“It’s an honor,” Hughes said. “We had some pretty good success the last few years and it’s kind of a nice wrap up to a long career. I coached for 17 years and I coached some amazing teams and it’s nice to go out with this one last honor.”
Hughes and the honorees from the other states will be honored at the NSCAA High School Awards brunch at the Lake Buena Vista Palace Hotel in Orlando, Fla. Aug. 2.
“The Fellowship family congratulates coach Hughes for this outstanding honor,” said Fellowship athletic director Bryan Lindner in a statement. “He has done an outstanding job with our program and it is nice to see his hard work acknowledged by the NSCAA.”
The award is indeed an exclamation point to a stellar five-year run at Fellowship for Hughes, who led the Lady Paladins to the Class A semifinals the last four years in a row as well as state runner-up finishes in 2012 and 2013.
Among the players he coached at Fellowship were NCAA Division I signees and twin sisters Emily Sonnett – who is now a rising junior at Virginia and a member of the U.S. under-23 national team – and Emma Sonnett – a rising junior at Georgia.
“It’s unbelievable,” Hughes said. “I’ve coached for 17 years and I’ve never [seen] this kind of success with this many players, because it can’t be the same team every year. I came into this school with some really talented players that were already there. We’ve always been able to have a lot of good talent and I’ve had some great coaches with me the whole time. I have a phenomenal cast of assistant coaches [Timur Yahkin, J.D. Wilson, Tim Rice] and I give a lot of credit to what they do.”
Rice, a 32-year coaching veteran, will replace Hughes on an interim basis as the Fellowship head coach.
Hughes stepped down from his coaching position at Fellowship to spend more time with his wife and three young children, though he will continue to teach at the school.
“We’ve got three little kids – three under the age of six,” Hughes said. “I decided to be with them and not be on the field for five or six months. It’s a sacrifice to not coach, but it’s a reward to be at home.”
While Hughes doesn’t rule out a return to the coaching ranks in the future, he said that his family is now his main focus.
“The door is always open when my kids are older,” Hughes said. “I will always have a desire to be in the game. But, it will be a few years from now, when my kids are older.”