On a perfect Monday morning, Chris Golden was out on the Greenport High School athletic field doing one of the things he enjoys the most — coaching soccer.
“I love it. I love being out on the field,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for anything better. The kids are practicing. When you get to my age, it’s the little things in life.”
Only this time Golden wasn’t directing the Greenport boys team, which he had since 2007. He was guiding the Southold/Greenport girls squad in its first preseason practice.
Golden took over for Vaughn Locascio, who had left the school for another position. Southold athletic director Steve Flanagan contacted Golden about the open spot. After failing to find the right candidate, Flanagan suggested that Golden take over the team, which he coached from 1994-99.
At first, Golden wasn’t sold. He enjoyed coaching the boys team. “The more I thought about it, the more it appealed to me,” he said, adding that he would get an opportunity to coach his youngest daughter, Jillian, a junior forward.
That Sean Charters, his assistant with the Greenport boys team, was ready to become head coach, helped with Golden’s decision.
After the first practice, Golden, 52, liked what he had seen.
“I’m encouraged on how positive and upbeat these girls are,” he said. “I believe 90 percent of life is showing up and then with the right attitude and the other 10 percent is what you do when you show up. They’re looking forward to it. That stuff goes a long way.”
The transition has been smooth. Golden met with the team in March and coached the First Settlers in the Brookhaven Summer Soccer League.
“He brings the element of toughness and I think we need that,” senior central defender Annie Lincoln said.
Perhaps Golden’s biggest challenge was making sure Jillian was board.
“We had long conversations on what it would look like, our relationship,” he said. “She was a tough sell. Over the course of time, especially after summer soccer, she really felt comfortable. My coaching style is very different than what it was when it first started. That’s much more conducive to her and all of the players. She gradually felt more comfortable. She’s happy. She said she was very excited.”
Jillian said she has been treated like any other player.
“My dad is a real good coach, especially for girls,” she said. “He understands their mindset. A father-daughter relationship is not a problem, not at all. He treats me on the field like a player-coach. I respect him. He respects me. He pushes me a little harder, but I can take that. I don’t think it bothers the girls really because they know what he’s all about. He doesn’t play favorites.”
Losing only one senior — forward Emily Perry — from a 5-9-3 team that reached the Suffolk County Class C playoffs, the First Settlers enter the season buoyant and optimistic that 2017 can be a special year.
Southold will be tested early, hosting defending Class C state champion Port Jefferson Sept. 1.
“We have almost everybody back,” said senior defender Grace Syron, a two-time All-New York State selection. “So I feel like we can go somewhere this year.”
Syron wasn’t the only one with high hopes.
“The playoffs left a bitter taste in our mouth,” Lincoln said. “Everybody is itching to make it right again.”
While the First Settlers barely reached the playoffs, this year’s squad has bigger aspirations, such as the county championship and beyond. They will play at Greenport this year as a new turf field is being constructed at Southold.
“It’s always an idea of having a banner,” senior goalkeeper Hayley Brigham said. “We’re calling it banner season. We want that banner on the wall to have something to be remembered by. If we come back to school and look at the wall in 20 years, it will be a sign that we made it.”
Photo caption: Southold/Greenport coach Chris Golden with his daughter, Jillian, a junior forward on the team. (Credit: Garret Meade)