Sporting a yellow Brazilian national team replica jersey with the name and number of Neymar on its back, Sean Charters on his first day as coach did not give his Greenport High School boys soccer team an opportunity to kick the ball around as the superstar does.
Instead, Charters put the Porters through a series of drills without a soccer ball — with nine balls lying tantalizing close to the field in Greenport Monday morning.
“I want to make sure these guys are fine-tuned and ready,” Charters said. “I told them to be really fit this year because in the past we’ve had a decline in the last 20 minutes where we just can’t finish hard. That’s the goal — to make sure we can play 80 minutes.
“It could be a tied game with 10 minutes left, and if we’re the ones running around the other team, we’ve got to take advantage of that to be able to put up and get a win.”
Not kicking the ball around did not faze the players. They knew their match fitness was much more important. Playing the beautiful game would come soon enough.
“It’s better to do conditioning first,” junior co-captain and midfielder Jacob Kahn said. “It will allow us to play better.”
So, the Porters did several types of calisthenics, which were sprinkled with a series of sprints, and runs around the field.
“I really loved what he had planned for today,” junior co-captain and defender Jason Cruz said. “It’s going to have us prepared for the season.”
After assisting Chris Golden last year, naming Charters as head coach was a no-brainer for Golden, who is the athletic director. Golden moved from the boys to the Southold/Greenport girls team this fall.
At 23, Charters probably is the youngest head coach in Suffolk County. He performed for the varsity for four years, helping the Porters to the 2008 county crown as a freshman before graduating in 2012.
“What I like about Sean is that he is a smart person,” Golden said. “He’s a student of the game. His personality, persona is a good fit for coaching, modern day coaching. He’ll do a great job with the program.”
Charters? He can’t wait for the season to start.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “As I helped Golden with the team last year, it kept feeding into my soccer mentality. That just was coming back. We have guys who want to play soccer that are here. They want to be a good team.”
A team dominated by juniors and sophomores, the Porters are hopeful that they will improve on their 3-11-1 record from last year.
A combination of maturing players and nine teammates performing for the Mattituck Revolution travel team in the Long Island Junior Soccer League could boost the side.
“Most of our team has played travel for three seasons,” Charters said. “I feel like we’re finally at the age and we’re physically fit to challenge the older guys who we’ve been [playing] for years now.”
Charters would love for that 2008 banner hanging in the school’s gymnasium to have some company. His enthusiasm has been infectious. Cruz said that the first day of practice could not have come soon enough. “Honestly, I’m beyond happy that August 21 came by like this,” he said. “I just can’t wait for the season.”
The Porters’ goals were simple and direct.
“To have a successful team, make it to the playoffs and prove what other teams don’t think that we’re able to prove — to show them that we’re not Greenport like last year,” Cruz said. “We’re ready for what’s coming up.”
Photo caption: Sean Charters, 23, who played for Greenport, now coaches the Porters. (Credit: Garret Meade)