December 21, 2009 11:45:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- Artie Cosby knew a long time ago Tiffany Huddleston was going to be a standout in sports.
Cosby coached Huddleston in T-Ball when she was 5 or 6 and saw how advanced she was even at that age. While it''s common for many players not to be able to throw or to catch very well, Huddleston, the team''s first baseman and only girl, had the best glove, bat, and throwing arm.
"She was exhibiting some things when she was a little girl that showed back then that she was special," Cosby said. "It hasn''t surprised me that she has progressed as well as she has."
Huddleston is currently excelling on the basketball court for the Starkville Academy girls team. But earlier this year the freshman forward/midfielder did her best to shine on the school''s soccer team.
Huddleston led the team with 17 goals in another standout season for a player whose skills belie her age.
For her accomplishments, Huddleston is The Commercial Dispatch Soccer Player of the Year.
"For a ninth-grader, she is very mature," Cosby said. "She knows the game very well and has a good presence out on the field."
Huddleston hones her soccer skills on a Select team that exposes her to a higher level of competition than she sees in high school. But Cosby said that experience hasn''t affected Huddleston''s ability to work well with some high school teammates whose soccer skills aren''t as advanced.
This season, Huddleston played center forward for the Lady Volunteers. Cosby said Huddleston is a great midfielder and that he probably didn''t utilize all of her skills this season. The fact that Huddleston has a powerful shot might be one reason why she saw some much action up top.
"The few times I played around in goal I did not want Tiffany shoot at me," Cosby said. "Even outside of the 18 she is going to pop you really hard when she hits. She has a lot of attributes that you really don''t expect to see in a ninth-grader. She plays like a much older player."
Huddleston believes she started playing recreational soccer at the Under-8 level in Starkville. She moved to Challenge soccer before she took her skills in sixth grade to a play on a Select team out of Jackson, where she has played since then.
Huddleston said she likes all sports (she said she would play football if she could) and especially enjoys the fast pace of soccer. She said she is willing to play any position as long as it is what the team needs.
That attitude has Huddleston primed to reach even greater heights in the next three years. She said it didn''t occur to her until the seventh grade when she started playing against older girls that she already accomplished a lot.
"I am definitely not finished," Huddleston said. "I have a long way to go. I guess I have gotten far to where I am now. I hope I can keep going and not slack off."
Huddleston credits God for blessing her with her ability. The natural right-footer said her speed is the strength to her game. She said she also feels comfortable using her left foot and hopes to improve on her ability to read the field earlier and to think ahead and know what she would like to do.
Huddleston believes she has a lot of potential waiting on her and that she has to continue to work hard to realize it. She said playing soccer in college is in her mind, but right now her focus in on basketball.
Regardless of the sport, Huddleston said she will strive to be the best she can be at anything she does.
"If I know I can be to a certain level I want to be there, or above," Huddleston said. "I am a pretty competitive person, not just in soccer and basketball."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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