By CHIP CIRILLO
Jimmy Burchett, a longtime coach who made Franklin a girls soccer powerhouse, died Sunday after a three-year battle with lung cancer.
“Everyone talks about that one coach that changes your life, and he was the one that changed mine,” said Morgan Zigelsky, an All-American center midfielder at Franklin in 2009. “I came in as a shy soccer player and I came out as the best I could have ever been. I got to go play Division I college soccer because of him.”
Zigelsky played at Ole Miss her freshman year in 2010 before transferring to Austin Peay for her last three seasons.
Brittany Potts (2001), Katy Rayburn (2002), Lucy Brient (2008) and Jessica Hiskey (2011) also earned All-America honors under Burchett, who won four state titles and finished runner-up four times at Franklin.
“I kept in touch with him all these years and he was more than just a coach,” Zigelsky said. “He was my dad on the soccer field. He was the one pushing me to be my best and he was the one who changed my life.”
Burchett, known as Coach B to many players, went 309-72-34 from 1997 to 2014, including state championships in 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2011.
The Lady Rebels finished second in the state in 1999, 2001, 2009 and 2010.
“He always asked me for my opinion on how the game was going and on how I was playing, and he made me realize that I needed to be confident and speak up and take the lead,” Zigelsky said. “He always wanted the girls to be as close as we possibly could. He was always joking around with us.”
Many high school players earn college scholarships based on their travel teams more than high school, but the opposite was true for Zigelsky.
“I actually had no success with my travel team with playing college soccer for them so he was the one that pushed for me and contacted coaches for me and helped me reach my goal of playing college soccer,” Zigelsky said.
Burchett was named the 2003 National Coach of the Year by the Adidas National Federation of High Schools.
Franklin finished No. 1 in the National Soccer Coaches Association rankings after going 24-0-0 in 2011.
“Honestly, I think it was just the chemistry he had with his players,” Zigelsky said. “I mean, he was there to push us and if we were slacking off he made sure we got our act together. You can have a lot of talent, but if the team doesn’t connect with the coach and play together, you’re not going to be as successful as you can be.”
One of the most humorous moments for Zigelsky under Burchett came after a big home win.
“He ran and jumped into our arms and we all stepped back and he fell to the ground, and then (he) just started laughing,” Zigelsky said. “I’ll never forget that.”
Zigelsky, who’s attending graduate school in Memphis, visited with Burchett a couple weeks ago.
“At least he’s not suffering anymore, but I know we will all miss him greatly because he was such a great man,” Zigelsky said.