Coach Talk: Semi-Finals

May 22, 2015 Jamie Tebaldi
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As we head into the first-ever semi-finals of the SAGL, we felt that it was important to talk to the coaches/general managers of the four teams involved (Barry Pepper of the Charleston Marauders, Marshall Crown of the Atlanta Assassins, Jordan Griffin of the South Carolina Titans, and Tim Wright of the Carolina Thunder), to find out how they're feeling about the season and what lies ahead. To say that this season has been exciting so far would be an understatement; watching these teams come into their own during high-intensity competition on the grid has been nothing short of exhilarating for athletes and spectators alike!

One aspect that all of the coaches touched on is how each of their teams really came together as a family this season. From the Charleston Marauders, who have athletes spread between Charleston, Hilton Head, Atlanta and Charlotte, to the Atlanta Assassins, who went through a management and coaching change at the start of the season, the grid competitors really had to work hard to stay connected with each other and encourage each other through their training regimens.

Each team has accomplished a great deal this season, including having athletes invited to play professionally. Tim Wright of the Carolina Thunder let us know that "I think sending 6 people to the combine and having 7 people join NPGL teams has, to this point, been our biggest accomplishment and our biggest obstacle." Roster changes can be frustrating, but when the athletes support each other and work together, they can still function like a well-oiled machine, which the Thunder proved with their entry into the semi-finals.

Barry Pepper agrees. He says of the Marauders, "Our team was built around the family philosophy. A team that can come together as family will work as a better unit on the grid." This will be especially important for the Marauders in the semi-finals, since they won't have any reserves due to scheduling conflicts. All of these athletes still lead lives outside of grid, and due to career obligations, several of the team members won't be in attendance. But Barry's faith in the competitors he's bringing to the match isn't shaken at all; he knows that they have what's most important: "Every one of our athletes has each other's back out there on the grid."

But even perceived failure doesn't hold these teams down. The Atlanta Assassins lost a match early on, and it proved to strengthen their bond, leading to an even more intense focus and drive. According to Marshall Crown, "The team was quickly humbled against Orlando... Since then they have shown hyper focus in coming together and working towards winning each week and finding a way when sometimes there seems like there isn't one." This seems to be a running theme for all of the grid teams. Coming together and finding the strength to push forward, harder, even when external stress is overwhelming.

Each of the teams is composed of not only incredible athletes, but also passionate competitors, people who manage to balance their day jobs, families, and lives with this sport that allows them to showcase their impressive skills while supporting each other. The four teams that have made it to the semi-finals are excited for tomorrow's matches, not only because of their desire to win, but also because they want to show their fans what they've been working toward all season.

And the coaches are just as thrilled. They hope the fans, all of whom have been so supportive this season, show up to root their teams on. As Barry enthusiastically points out, "This is sure to be one of the most exciting weekends in GRID racing!"