First-year Kalama athletic director Andrew Gragg wanted to get his first hire right. He prepared strenuously to interview candidates for the open girls soccer coaching position.

"There was definitely some pressure I put on myself to not screw up the first one," Gragg said.

In the end, Gragg chose former R.A. Long boys and girls soccer coach John Bates. Bates was officially hired in early July.

Gragg's familiarity with Bates was a bonus. The new A.D. once served as a junior varsity coach under Bates at R.A. Long.

"I think you'd be hard-pressed to find somebody with a better coaching resume, experience-wise, than him in this area for a girls soccer job," Gragg said.

Bates, 54, was the RAL girls varsity coach from 2002-2012. He led the girls to their only state tournament appearance in 2006. The RAL girls team finished 2-10 in league last fall.

Kalama didn't fare much better, going 3-13 and finishing in last place in the Southwest 1A Trico Division.

"My aim is to get them all playing together and trying to get them into the playoffs for the very first time," Bates said. "That would be great, but it's going to take a while. They're one of the smallest 1A schools in the state of Washington."

Bates will focus on building a program, not just a varsity squad. That means feeder programs at the middle and elementary school level and offseason club teams. That will help increase turnout — there are only 20 at the high school level right now — and make better players.

"I hope he can get the numbers up for how many girls are turning out and make them successful year-in and year-out," Gragg said. "Get it to are starting in elementary and middle school and coming into high school with a good skill set."

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