FORT PAYNE — Tom Shanklin has been involved in the growth and development of soccer in DeKalb County for his entire adult life.
He worked as a head coach for Fort Payne High School’s soccer programs for 11 years before resigning this offseason. As he walks away from high school coaching, he’s starting a new path in growing the sport for the county.
Shanklin has been hired by the county’s youth club soccer program D.C. Inferno as its director of coaching.
“The responsibilities are to help nurture the program, look at players, find athletes, create teams, encourage the furthering education of coaches and build the competitive aspect of it,” Shanklin said of his new role.
“Alabama has several rules that involve high school athletics coaching. It becomes difficult to be both a high school soccer coach and maintain a competitive club program.”
Shanklin said D.C. Inferno has doubled its number of competitive teams at the Division II level to 10 this season. He said he’s comfortable with holding D.C. Inferno competitive at the same level for a couple of years with continual growth.
As he moves into his new director position, Shanklin said he’d like to see more engagement from the club’s youngest teams.
“The younger you can get players started playing competitively, the more acclimated they’ll be to the high level of competition they’ll face from U12 onward,” he said.
“I’d like for us to field a Division I program, but I feel like that’s five years down the road. I want to continue to have tournaments and bring a lot of teams to town.”
DeKalb County is centrally located between many major cities in the tri-state area and allows for teams from places like Huntsville, Birmingham, Atlanta, Rome, Ga., and Chattanooga, Tenn., to visit and compete. Shanklin said he plans to help D.C. Inferno become more involved with other club teams from those cities.
Eddy Bolton, president of D.C. Inferno and head coach of Fort Payne High School’s girls soccer team, said he’s looking forward to how Shanklin’s new role with the youth club will benefit soccer across DeKalb.
“Tom no longer being involved with the high school will allow us to benefit our local youth program county-wide,” he said. “He now doesn’t have that conflict we have, coaching kids at the high school-playing age.”
For more information on D.C. Inferno, visit its Facebook page or call 256-630-0039.