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Soccer queens
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In 2003, Officer Ken Malcolm of Covington had a unique opportunity upon hearing that the World Cup in Los Angeles, Calif. needed some extra security.

Malcolm leaped at the chance, and was assigned to assist with the Chinese team. Although 16 clubs were competing, at the time there were only three other teams playing in L.A., including Ghana, Russia and Australia.

Unfortunately, no one spoke fluent English from the Chinese squad, leaving Malcolm to believe that it was going to be quite an interesting experience to say the least.

So you can imagine the relief he felt after meeting Bryony Duus of the Australian team who just happened to also be from Georgia.

"Bryony came up to me and said you're accent is southern, and asked if I was from the south," recalled Malcolm. "Then she asked if I'd ever heard of Hazlehurst, and I thought she was kidding at first because my wife is from there. She said she would probably be back through Georgia again, so we stayed in touch."

Duus, 30, competed in the 2000 Olympics and 2003 World Cup, having already established quite an impressive resume. In addition, she was in the buildup for the 1995 World Cup and 2004 Olympics, battling injuries along the way.

Previously, Duus was a midfielder at Brewton-Parker College before her career was cut short after sustaining an injury on the playing field. She tore her posterior cruciate ligament - an uncommon knee injury - and as it worsened she had to make the difficult decision to discontinue playing.

For the past 18 months Duus has been traveling, working in Canada, Scotland, France and Italy. Since playing competitively, she has taken up golf, and now works at St. Andrews Golf Course in Scotland.

Meanwhile, earlier this year Officer Chip Shirah of Covington and another father put together a 19 and under girls travel soccer team through the YMCA in an Athena League. Their goal was to prepare the girls for the upcoming Eastside season.

In fact, all 16 members will be playing soccer for the Lady Eagles this season.

"The difference in the first game and the last game they played was huge," said Shirah regarding the team's marked improvement. "The girls are now starting to understand what it takes."

But after losing all nine games, the team still needed some inspiration and a better perceptive of the game.

So when Malcolm found out that Shirah's team could use some help he called Duus and asked if she would put on a small soccer clinic for the girls on her way home for the Thanksgiving break.

"She was very excited about coming," said Malcolm, "and we're excited about having her."

In total, more than half the team showed up to learn from one of the best on the field.

"We learned a lot of helpful tips and what we need to work on," said Kayla Bruno. "We also learned a lot about her; it was an eye-opener to what (soccer) is really like."

Katie Herren agreed, adding that it was a good learning experience.

"We learned new drills for footwork," said Herren.

Before speaking to the team, Duus wasn't sure what to expect since it was a last minute get-together. But she was excited to reach out to the team dubbed the Bad News Eagles.

"It's up to them what they take out of this," said Duus, "but if I can help in any way then that's a good thing."

Her best advice to the girls was to always be juggling the soccer ball no matter what, whether you're on the field or at home practicing in the backyard.

"Always just try to get a feel for the ball and keep trying to do new things," said Duus. "Basically, don't limit yourself; that's what we're always encouraged to do."

According to Shirah, he wasn't exactly sure how many players would attend the clinic during the holiday break; however, he was quite pleased with the overall turnout.

"We're just out here trying to teach them," said Shirah, "and they're getting that from Duus."

As a result, the Lady Eagles should be a much better team than one year ago.

"I think we'll definitely be a lot better since we had something to do in our off-season," said Maggie Shirah.

And what better way to improve than to be in the company of an Olympian.