Girls soccer has become one of Cleburne’s more promising programs in recent years, and Aaron Babcock is tasked with taking the Lady Jackets to the next level.
Babcock was recently named as the new head girls soccer coach at Cleburne High School after two successful years leading the Lubbock Monterey girls soccer program.
“The main attraction to the girls soccer program at Cleburne was the opportunity to develop a winning program,” Babcock said. “I’m excited for the chance to build a program that can compete yearly for district titles and deep playoff runs. My family and I are excited to become part of the Cleburne community. We like the small-town feel that Cleburne and the surrounding areas offer, and are ready to become a part of that.”
In May, Cleburne ISD announced Micah Horner as the Lady Jackets’ new head soccer coach but after she decided to stay in Alvarado, Cleburne was left searching for the right fit. And Cleburne ISD Athletic Director Jeri Hall said she believes things worked out well.
“It was a weird circumstance but I think it worked out for the best,” Hall said. “Coach Babcock has a lot of experience with girls soccer. His first year at Monterey, they went to the regional tournament. ... Girls soccer is on the rise, overall and in Cleburne, and him being here closer to the Metroplex makes it more marketable for him and for us as far as the amount of girls going out for soccer. He knows the caliber of girls we have. He felt like Cleburne is going in the right direction. He and his wife are super excited about it. We’re excited about it. I think it worked out for the better.”
In addition to being a playoff participant more often than not over the past decade, the Cleburne girls soccer program has had 10 players sign at the collegiate level in just the past three years.
“We have a good amount of talented girls who come through here,” Hall said. “We have a good bit of girls who play club soccer. We consistently have girls sign every year for soccer scholarships. I feel there’s a lot to choose from there as a coach.”
And with that type of talent pool, Babcock said he has big aspirations for the short term and long term for Cleburne girls soccer.
“Year one, our goal is to play in April,” he said. “I want us to finish in the top 3 in district and win a couple of playoff games. Playing in April will be a major step in the right direction.
“Big picture for the Lady Jacket soccer program is to consistently fight for district titles and to become a regular at the regional tournament. I want to build a program that has the potential to get to Georgetown at the end of the season.”
At age 37, Babcock has been involved in the game of soccer for most of his life, and that includes coaching “the beautiful game” for 21 years.
“I started playing soccer when I was 4 years old,” Babcock said. “I fell in love with the game back then and the love is still strong. I have been a licensed coach with the USSF for 21 years. I got my first coaching license when I was 16 years old. My chances of playing college ball were shot down when I injured my knees, and instead of leaving the game I decided to coach. I have coached every level from U5 kiddos to the college level.”
Babcock’s professional coaching career began as a goalkeeper coach for the men’s and women’s programs at Western Texas College in Snyder before being promoted mid-season to assistant coach. He then began his high school coaching career as an assistant at Dumas High School for the boys and girls teams before moving to Lubbock Monterey as head girls coach the past two seasons.
Even with 21 years of experience coaching soccer, Babcock said he’s constantly looking at ways to improve himself as a coach.
“As a coach, I consider myself to be progressive,” Babcock said. “Training, style, philosophy, and culture are elements of a program that cannot become stagnant. I constantly evaluate what we are doing to see if my staff is getting the absolute best out of our athletes. I try to learn from those that know more than me, and I study those teams and coaches, and use their programs as influence for the programs I coach.”
Babcock said his coaching philosophy is based on three principles that will serve as pillars for the Lady Jacket soccer program.
“First, the team must trust each other in every aspect of the program,” he said. “Each player must trust that the coaches are giving them the best chance for success, and the coaching staff must trust that each player has bought in to the team philosophy. The second principle is work ethic. Each player needs to work at the best of their ability, whether that’s in the weight room, the field, or the classroom. My teams always strive to be the hardest-working team every time we take the field. Losing a game because we met a team that is better than us is acceptable, but losing because we were outworked is not.
“The third principle is character. A person’s character is more valuable than any other trait. How a player treats their opponent, the officials, and their team can tell me all I need to know about their character. Learning to win with class and lose with grace are lessons that transcend sports and help young people become better adults.”
As for on the field, Babcock knows a couple of traits that he wants his team to possess.
“Ideally I want our team to be known for being the most fit team on the pitch,” he said. “I want my team to be able to wear our opponents down and take advantage of our fitness in the latter stages of a match. Our style of play will be a high-pressure style. Keeping the pressure on the opponent when we have the ball, and when we lose the ball we will press them to win it back. Living in Lubbock for as long as I have, I draw influence from former Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach’s philosophy of out-scoring your opponent instead of focusing on the opponent scoring less than us.”
Babcock is a 2000 graduate of Roosevelt High School in Acuff (Lubbock). He and his wife, Mariah, have a nine-year-old son, Bransyn.