The coach who led Smoky Mountain to its best ever postseason soccer run has resigned.
Mark Sides has stepped down after six season as coach of the Lady Mustang soccer team. He will remain a math teacher at the school.
Sides and his wife, Lauren, became parents of their third child last month.
“At this point in my life, I need to take off my coaching hat and put on my dad hat more,” he said. “All three are under 5 so we’ve got our hands full.”
With the third child on the way, Sides said he decided during this past season that it would be his last – at least for now.
“It was a hard decision to make, but I’m needed at home a lot more now,” he said. “I think it’s time to invest in my own kids.”
Sides has a career record of 54-63-2, including 7-10 this past season, when SM lost in the first round of the state 2-A playoffs.
As for what he will miss about coaching, he said, “I think it’s just the relationships with the girls and the coaching staff. Being a team sport, it’s kind of like a family. I invested my time with them, and they invested their time in the program. It’s fun to go out there and compete.”
The highlight of his tenure came in 2017 when the Lady Mustangs were 20-3, and tied for the conference championship. They reached the third round of the state 2-A playoffs. That’s the only time the school has had a soccer team, women’s or men’s, advance past the second round.
“What stands out about that season is how much fun we had while we were playing,” Sides said. “Everyone was focused, and we wanted to go out there and compete and have fun. It was definitely fun breaking a lot of records that year.”
He said one of the highlights of that season was a shootout win over East Lincoln in the second round of the playoffs.
Sides was head JV coach for two years before becoming head coach. He also worked as an assistant for the JV men’s team early in his time as head coach of the women.
Sides did not rule out a return to coaching in the future but said it would be more likely that in the short term he would be coaching his oldest child’s youth team.
Sides is a graduate of South Rowan High School, where he played soccer, and Western Carolina University.
“It will be a change not having him as coach but I think he’s doing the right thing,” said Anna Morgan, a rising senior who holds school records for goals in a season (51) and career (99). “He’s brought a lot to the team, but I think he’s doing the right thing for his family. It’s a good decision for him to make.”
She said one of the things she appreciated about Sides was his accessibility.
“If I wanted to talk about something that happened in a game or something about practice, it was nice that I was able to stop by and talk to him,” she said “I appreciate him listening to me. I thought he valued my opinion.”
“Mark has done a tremendous job with the women’s soccer team,” Athletic Director Adam Phillips said. “He had a great run a few years ago to reach the third round of the playoffs and win a conference championship. We appreciate all he has done at Smoky Mountain High School. He’s done a tremendous job.”
As for a replacement, Phillips said, “We’re looking to post it this week and jump on it pretty quick. Ideally, we will have it filled by the middle of July by the time the coaching clinic rolls around.”