Winfield junior Greg Penrod is quickly developing a reputation as a strong and vocal leader on the soccer field.
“Greg was a starter last year, and the boys really seem to follow his leadership,” said Erin Hesselbach, Penrod’s new soccer coach.
Penrod is a Winfield native, but he attended school at Immaculate Conception in Old Monroe, until he was in eighth grade.
While there, he played soccer from third grade through fifth grade.
Penrod said that leadership is something that has always come naturally to him.
“I haven’t really had to work on it,” Penrod said. “I’m more of an extrovert. I like helping people, and I like leading. It’s just something that I’ve always done.”
Leadership may have come naturally to Penrod, but it’s still unusual for an underclassman to jump out and take such a large role as quickly as Penrod did.
“I was pretty lucky,” Penrod said. “When I was a freshman, my brother was a senior. He helped me fit in with the older members of the team more quickly than I would have otherwise.”
Penrod said his good fortune continued even after his older brother graduated.
“When my brother’s senior class graduated, I had the chance to connect with another older player,” Penrod said. “He was a senior then and I was a sophomore. We sort of just clicked as leaders. He played up and I played back, so we could cover the whole field vocally.”
For the last two seasons, Penrod has had a very predictable role on defense as the team’s sweeper.
“I’ve been playing right up from the goalie these last two years,” Penrod said. “If the ball got too close, my job was to clear it out.”
This season, Hesselbach is planning to utilize Penrod’s skill set in a new way.
“She is hoping to play me deep outside,” Penrod said. “It will be my job to keep the ball in play so that we’re not just kicking the ball away and turning it over.”
Penrod said he is fully aware that winning isn’t everything, but he would definitely like to see at least a few more victories this season, or at least more goals, just for the psychological and confidence-building effect that it would have on the team as a whole.
His advice for his younger teammates is simple.
“Be yourself,” Penrod said. “You will fit in eventually, no matter what. Contribute in every way that you can. That’s how you will figure out where you belong.”
When Penrod isn’t leading on the soccer field, he can also be found competing in track and field, participating in a high school mentoring program known as Link Crew, serving as a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and playing for Winfield’s varsity basketball team.
In fact, Penrod said he is hoping to receive a basketball scholarship.
Beyond that, he has no idea what he wants to do after high school.
Penrod said he believes in taking things one day at a time.
“I really like where I am right now,” Penrod said.“There’s no rush. Whatever you pick, you will probably be doing it for the rest of your life. Why rush that decision?”
Penrod said that, whatever the future holds for him, he knows he will enjoy the same solid support network that has always been the backdrop for his success.
“My parents have always been there supporting me,” Penrod said. “The same is true of Coach Keim, my basketball coach. He’s the reason I’m involved in Winfield athletics.”