Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Alta High soccer coach Lee Mitchell is the only soccer coach the school has ever had.

Lee Mitchell has been coaching soccer at Alta High for 31 years, and has built a powerhouse with both the boys and girls programs. Deseret News girls soccer writer Sarah Thomas caught up with Mitchell this week and posed the following questions.

Q: How did you get started in soccer?

A: There was no youth soccer when I was young. There was club soccer in the high school and there were adult leagues. When I was 12 years old, I began playing with my ward in an adult league. They would beat me up, and I loved it. At Olympus, I played on the club team as a sophomore and then in adult leagues.

Q: How long have you been coaching soccer at Alta High?

A: I am the only soccer coach Alta has ever had. I was teaching (health and PE) at Indian Hills Middle School when they sanctioned boys soccer in 1983, and I applied for the job at Alta High. Three years later I moved to teach at Alta. Girls soccer was sanctioned in 1989 and I applied for that job. I have been teaching now for 34 years.

Q: Real Salt Lake has been in Utah for eight years. How has having a professional team impacted the high school game?

A: Having Real Salt Lake here has done a lot because kids are seeing a higher level of soccer. It is similar with the women's college teams and the high school girls getting to see them play at that level.

Q: What changes have you seen in girls sports specifically in the years you have been coaching girls soccer?

A: I was recently looking at a video tape of games from 1989. It is amazing how much the skill level has changed since then. There used to be a few great players and everybody else. It isn't that way anymore. It is also amazing how much the involvement has grown. In 1989, we had a varsity team but no JV. Maybe 30 girls tried out. Now, we average 60 girls trying out. And it is the same for the boys' team too.

Q: Kealia Ohai (Ms. Soccer in 2009) was a fantastic player for Alta. At the time. Did you ever think she would be national team caliber?

A: Kealia was a very special athlete. Not very many people make it that far, but she had the skill and desire. Others, like Katie Larkin, have been close to that level. I try to travel to see those kids play. I went to North Carolina to watch Kealia and to Portland to watch Derek Boggs (Mr. Soccer in 2011). I have a couple of kids playing for Utah State (Natalie Norris, Jackie Tillotson and Lauren Roundy) and BYU (Taylor Campbell and Michele Murphy), so I will go watch that NCAA game.

I have been blessed to coach such talented players, and what they are doing now makes me very proud.

Q: What kind of affect do you anticipate the opening of Corner Canyon High School will have on Alta soccer?

A: Hopefully not too much affect in the negative. There are good players everywhere, and I am sure eventually they will have kids that would have been at Alta that we won't get to work with. But, we will have other great kids playing for us.