West Forsyth athletic director Brett Phipps had heard about Kim Spence, and after watching her coach in person, he knew she could do the job.
Spence was named the Wolverines' head girls soccer coach this week, with former head coach Jason Bayush shifting to just leading the boys program.
"I think she's going to fit in real well around here, and the coaches that have worked with her this year just think the world of her," Phipps said of Spence.
Spence grew up in Georgia and had a highly accomplished high school career, setting multiple state records and winning three state championships at Parkview from 2007 to 2010. She went on to play four seasons at Auburn and spent part of that time with the Jamaica U-20 women's national team -- Spence was born in Jamaica and moved to the United States when she was three.
She knew in college that she wanted to coach soccer, but she didn't anticipate the speed with which her career has advanced.
"It was always a dream of mine to be a head coach for varsity," Spence said."...I just didn't think it would happen this quickly."
Spence was a counselor at Liberty Middle School for the 2016-17 school year, and she served as an assistant coach at West during that time. Bayush had agreed to coach both teams at West two years ago, when the school was in what Phipps called a "hiring bind," but when Spence joined his staff, Bayush quickly identified her as a someone who could take the head coaching job.
"You just meet people, and no matter what their drivers license age says, when you meet them for five minutes, you realize they've kind of got it, you know what I mean?" Phipps said of Spence. "She just sort of fit in that category, and her background is so vast that I think it makes up for her age."
Spence plans to emphasize possession in her coaching strategy with the Wolverines, building up chances from the defense forward. She played forward for most of her soccer career, including in high school, but she moved to defense when she was a sophomore at Auburn and considers the experience she has on both sides of the ball to be a definite advantage.
"Being able to get that perspective and that insight on the other side of the ball has really been beneficial for me," she said.
She takes over a program at West that is in strong standing in the county and state scenes. The Wolverines are two seasons removed from a state runner-up finish, and while they finished fourth in Region 5-7A this spring and lost in the first round of the playoffs, they twice took Lambert, the eventual state champion, to penalty kicks and beat South Forsyth, an eventual state semifinalist, in penalties. West also graduated just three seniors this year.
But the Wolverines also have to contend with a significant change in the state's girls soccer scene, as the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, a newly-formed top level of the travel circuit, will take many of the state's best players out of the high school scene.
Phipps said he "wasn't aware" of any players at West joining that level, and Spence spoke to the importance of communicating both with the coaches in the Development Academy program and the players who might join it. Spence is coming to West as a counselor next year, so she'll be at the school full-time, and Phipps said the relatively small age difference between her and the players can also help to form connections.
"I think the best thing I can do is just continue to advocate for high school soccer," Spence said. "How beneficial it can be for the students, for their success, for their progress, and how it can still relate to college and playing at that level."