By Mal Boright
The coaches may have occasionally changed over the years, but Champlain Valley Union High remains the state’s Soccer Central for both boys and girls.
The Division 1 finalist boys team, for which tryouts began last Thursday, has a new mentor at the helm in the person of Katie Mack. Mack is coming off a successful run at Bellows Free Academy of Fairfax.
Mack replaces T.J. Mead, who stepped down after five campaigns to spend time with his young children. Mead had taken over from Dan Shepardson, now in school administration.
Last year on the girls’ side, Stan Williams replaced the retired Brad Parker (who has coached for more than 20 years) and the defending champion Redhawks did not miss a beat, rolling to a second straight Div. 1 title during an unbeaten, once-tied season.
The boys program began with the opening of the school in the ‘60s with Dave Bremner the original builder of the program, which has maintained its top tier excellence through the years.
“I am really excited to have this opportunity,” said Mack after practice Monday morning, as the sun came out to begin drying a field wet from dawn’s early rain.
Athletic director Kevin Riell is also excited.
“Katie comes to CVU as a seasoned (veteran) teacher and soccer coach,” he wrote in an e-mail. “We are very fortunate to have her here at CVU in both roles.”
Mack came to CVU last year as a social studies teacher after coaching boys soccer at BFA since 2007. In Fairfax, her teams performed in the top rungs of their division.
“It is nice to coach where you teach,” she said. You get to know the students and the school much better.”
She said her coaching philosophy is “to work on building a team with everybody mutually responsible for achieving team goals.”
She added that every individual really matters.
Coaching, Mack emphasized, is “giving players problem solving skills, leadership skills and interpersonal relationship skills,” so they can succeed on the playing fields.
It can also be noted that acquisition and extension of those skills can be quite helpful if not vital in future business careers and life’s many other challenges.
She is also a believer in thorough preparation, adding that during games, “the less coaching I’m doing, the better.”
A native of Baltimore, Md., the new CVU soccer skipper attended The Bryn Mawr School, an all-girls private school, for her prep years.
Mack played soccer at Drew University in New Jersey and, after coming to Vermont, coached club soccer and junior varsity soccer at South Burlington High before taking the varsity helm at BFA.
As for the coming season, Mack says that the lads, including 12 returning seniors, are hungry in the wake of the loss to Colchester in last fall’s title contest.
“They are really fit,” she said in the wake of Thursday’s traditional first day gauntlet in which all candidates for the three teams (varsity, junior varsity A and B) must run a mile, half-mile, quarter-mile, 200 meters and 100 meters on short rest and within designated times.
A few players might have thought the new coach would be easy on the ever-challenging physical and mental demands of the gauntlet. No siree.
After all, this is Soccer Central.
Mack and the Redhawks have a scrimmage at Rice Memorial High Monday. The boys and girls teams will both have pre-season tests at home against Rye, N.Y. the following Saturday morning, Aug. 30 at 10 a.m.