Heritage Academy soccer coach Tom Velek has a very high opinion of senior Destinee Flowers. It’s not her athleticism, although she certainly has that; it’s not her work ethic, although she definitely has that.
No, what impresses Velek the most about Flowers is how she handles adversity.
“She actually ended up losing a starting position her junior year and spent a little time on the bench, not because she lacked desire or heart or anything like that,” Velek said Monday at an event marking Flowers’ decision to sign to play soccer at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas.
“Just because she was causing a lot of fouls, and some of those fouls were inside our box,” Velek continued. “We had to work on channeling that competitiveness and athleticism in a way that was going to be really productive for the entire team.”
Velek said Flowers responded exactly the way he had hoped.
“Rather than getting ticked off … she just said, ‘OK, I’m going to do the things I need to do to get back in the starting lineup. And she did that. I don’t think she stepped off the field her entire senior year.”
But learning to channel her competitiveness didn’t mean she had to change her style of play.
“I’m fast, I’m aggressive, and nobody can beat me,” Flowers said of her play at center back, where she has played since starting at Columbus High School. “They come toward me … it’s over.”
Former Falcons coach James Rush had the pleasure of coaching Flowers from eighth to 10th grade, and he remembers her having some of the same qualities then that Velek speaks of now.
“She’s got athletic ability,” Rush said. “Things like footspeed, hand-eye coordination, stuff like that, she had to work on, but she’s an athlete.
“She’s a great kid to be around. She was like a sponge, just took everything in. She didn’t have a whole lot of soccer experience, but she worked hard to get better.”
Flowers said soccer was not part of her family growing up, and she didn’t get involved in the sport until she began playing for Rush.
“I did track, dance, cheer, and that’s it,” said Flowers, a sprinter back in her track days. “Nobody in my family played soccer. They played basketball, football.”
Lyons College is an NAIA school of fewer than 700 students that plays in the American Midwest Conference for most sports. The AMC has 13 schools in Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois and Missouri. The Scots went 5-10-3 a year ago, posting a 3-5-1 conference record.
“It’s a small college, great class sizes, it fit me,” Flowers said. “I got a few offers from other schools, but this is the closest — four hours, four-and-a-half hours, not that far.”
“I think it’s going to be a good fit for her,” said Velek, who said Flowers is the 30th player he has sent on to play college soccer. “It’s a very student-centric university, and I think it’s a great place for a player to go.
“I always tell kids don’t look at five schools within three hours; there are some great schools out there that have great soccer programs.”
Flowers plans to major in psychology with aspirations to become a lawyer or a judge, even though she said math was her strongest subject. She said she settled on Lyon about a month ago and that her parents are “very happy” with the decision.
As is Velek. As he told the audience in the Heritage gym:
“She always did the work she needed to do to get better and put herself into this type of position. That says a lot about her character and her work ethic, and that kind of resiliency is going to serve her and all of you well if you have it.”