SYLVANIA — Editor’s note: This is the 16th installment in a question-and-answer series with DeKalb County coaches, taking a look at their playing journeys and their coaching experiences. In Part 16, The Times-Journal interviewed Sylvania soccer coach Dillyn Mitchell.
Q: How long have you worked as both a head coach and an assistant coach?
A: I have been a head soccer coach and an assistant football coach for one year now. I have to say, it has been the most fulfilling year of my life, career-wise. I love what I do and I hope the people of Sylvania will give me the opportunity to coach their kids for many years to come.
Q: What led you to coaching?
A: I have always been a sports fanatic. I enjoyed every second that I had the opportunity to compete on the field and in the gym as a player. It was hard when my playing career ended. I knew that I wanted to continue to be involved in sports and pass on my love for them to a younger generation. Coaching was a perfect outlet for me to do that.
Q: What was your playing career like?
A: Many coaches in our area were outstanding athletes and continued their playing careers into college, however I am not one of those coaches. It’s funny, I am a soccer coach, but I have actually never competed in soccer as a player. My high school alma mater did not have a soccer program. By the time I made it to high school I had given up basketball and chose to solely focus on football. That was a decision that I later regretted. I had it in my mind that if I focused just on football, that I would be that much better, however I know now that the best athletes are usually multi-sport athletes. Now I am avid about encouraging kids to play every sport that they are interested in. Even though I wasn’t the most athletic player on the field, I tried to compensate for that with my work ethic. I was blessed to be a member of some pretty good teams and that’s something I’m proud of.
Q: What are your high school and collegiate alma maters?
A: I am a 2012 graduate of Pisgah High school. I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama in 2016 and just completed my master’s degree from Jacksonville State University back in May of 2020.
Q: Do you also teach at Sylvania? If so, what subject?
A: I teach middle school special education at Sylvania. I could go on and on about how great my students are at Sylvania but The Times-Journal would run out of ink before I could finish. God has really blessed me, he has given me a platform to help the students who need it the most. I get to lay my head down every single night and feel like I’ve made a difference in someone’s life.
Q: Who are the coaches who have most impacted the way you instruct your athletes?
A: I have had so many coaches throughout the years. I have learned so much from each of them and tried to piece together who I wanted to be as a coach. I was coached by Terry Kenimer, Brad Thomas and Tommy Wells at Pisgah. I can’t thank those men enough for investing in me as an athlete. They challenged me and pushed me to be the best version of myself possible. I am now blessed to work under Matt Putnam at Sylvania. He took a chance on me with my inexperience as a coach and allowed me to be a part of his football program. I continue to learn from him daily. At this point in my career I’m like a sponge, just soaking everything in.
Q: How would you describe how the premature ending to this soccer season due to COVID-19 concerns affected both you and your athletes?
A: This spring was tough on our players, parents and myself. In February we were battling the rain, canceling and rescheduling games two and three times per week. Then we came to face a pandemic — talk about bad luck. It was really hard for me to tell my seniors that they were done; that was the most difficult part of any of this. Those young men and women are troopers though. They were down and out for a few weeks but I have talked to them since then and they are excited about the next chapter in their lives. I will forever be grateful for those kids and for what they have done for the program. As far as the other players, I think it was an eye-opener. Coaches say all the time ‘play like it’s your last game, because it very well could be.’ I don’t think that statement has ever been truer than it is now. Everybody is ready to get back to work this winter, including myself.
Q: What encourages you about the future of Sylvania’s soccer programs?
A: There is a lot of interest in soccer from the younger kids. That excites me as a coach! Take a look at some of the really successful programs in our area such as Fort Payne and Collinsville. They have been playing soccer for a long time. We have only been playing soccer for a few years now. We have a rec league soccer program now, which will help prepare athletes for the junior varsity and varsity programs. The future looks bright at SHS!
Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: I don’t have a lot of free time these days but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Teaching and coaching takes up most of my time but outside of it I spend every second I can with my wife, Alex, and my daughter, Collins. Alex has been really supportive of my coaching and is my biggest fan. Collins is only about four-and-a-half months old but I hope she has a love for sports like I do. It would mean the world to me to get to coach her one day.