Another first day of practice before the start of another high school boys soccer season brings with it another building job for Chris Golden. Then again, that is nothing new for the Greenport coach.
Last year the Porters had a young team, a really young team. It was essentially a junior varsity team, in terms of age. This year’s team is still young.
“The Kansas City Royals have nothing on us in terms of a small market franchise,” Golden said late Monday afternoon, squinting as he looked into a blinding sun while his players worked on a passing drill during their first practice. “So every year we are rebuilding. We’re always looking for pieces to our puzzle.”
At least some of those pieces are a little more polished than they were last year. The 2013 season didn’t bring the Porters much in the way of wins (they went 3-12), but that doesn’t mean they didn’t take anything away from it.
“For the younger players it was a learning experience for what you need to compete,” Golden said. “The action is pretty much nonstop for 90 minutes. You physically, mentally and emotionally have to play at a level, and for some of the younger kids, that’s a big jump, and they’re not used to that. That’s a big learning process for them.”
Niklas Droskoski, a senior defender, recalled last season, saying: “It was frustrating a little bit last year, but I think we have more understanding and confidence.”
Understanding and confidence can work wonders.
Young players such as midfielder/defender Oscar Tomas and midfielder Eduardo Sanchez, both sophomores, may have benefited the most from last year’s experience.
“I need confident players because when you play with confidence, oooh, that goes a lo-o-o-ng way,” Golden said. “I don’t need a player who feels sorry for himself or who’s constantly worried about making a mistake or has some type of indecisiveness. I equate it to driving a car. You have to process multiple streams of information really quickly, and the more successful players can do that.”
Seniors like Angel Colon, Bayron Rivas and Droskoski should have that ability.
As is typical for a first practice, some paperwork was involved. Players ran, worked on their passing and scrimmaged.
“It’s always an exciting day because it’s a new opportunity, a new beginning for all these kids that are coming up, a good chance for them to get a spot on the team,” said Colon, who can play any position on the field except goalkeeper, according to Golden.
The preseason training period is critical for teams as they prepare for the rigors of the coming season.
“I think our biggest key will be staying together and being a family because that will really take us far,” said Colon.
The Porters are no longer associated with Shelter Island in boys soccer and have been moved from Class D to the larger Class C pool.
To help them navigate those deeper waters, should they make it to the playoffs for the second time in three years, are returning players like midfielder/forward Mateo Arias, defenders Justin Bracken, Alex Perez and Nick Wallace, and goalkeeper Richard Torres. Robert Nicholas, a senior midfielder who transferred from Central Islip, should also help.
And there are others. “A lot of new faces, people we got to get used to,” said Droskoski.
About 20 players attended the first practice, and Golden said he expected to have 24 ready for the season.
Perhaps in part because the players have had a year more maturity, Golden expects to have a more competitive team this year. In the meantime, it is his task to mold a diverse group of players from different walks of life into a unified team.
He said, “We always make it work every year.”