"One of the things that I enjoyed about last season's team is the team mentality that the group had. They all worked really, really hard and they gelled as a group," said Head Coach Jon Bain.
"The seniors really got the juniors to buy into the team and I think they learned a lot from that. They learned how to interact with teammates they didn't see all the time or maybe weren't friends with and that happened rather quickly."
Not only did Shen's run to the Final Four teach the underclassmen how to play as a team and how to win, but they also learned what leadership looks lik... on and off the field.
"When we played Baldwinsville in the regional final, we let up a goal really early and the captains immediately got everyone together and said we got this, don't worry about it. Within two minutes we tied it up and shortly after we took the lead. I think the juniors really learned how to lead a team from that. It's about how you conduct yourself and how you don't let your horses get away from you," Bain said.
Those leadership skills will be put to the test as the summer rolls into the fall, with impending decisions on if and when scholastic fall athletic competitions will take place.
"I spoke to the captains and I just told them, 'I want you to be prepared to not play your senior year and not to have your chance to captain this team.' I never want to be the bearer of bad news, but they needed to start to wrap their brains around that or maybe we have to pivot our goals. Maybe we're just playing for a section title, or maybe we're playing for a section title from March to May," Bain said.
According to plans released by NYSPHSAA, if games cannot begin in the fall, the backup plan is to have fall sports take place during the spring, in an abbreviated season. Either way, there will be no regional or state championships this year, as they were cancelled in the same announcement.
While that's certainly a disappointment for a group of players who have had their eyes on the grand prize for over a year, they have had some time to digest the state of the world and the health issues that are present.
"Having sports is probably 50-50. I knew that there would be several scenarios. Now we're just waiting on what the governor's going to do. I know that if we get the okay to start on September 21, my boys will be ready. A lot of them play in the club that I run, so I get to interact with them frequently," Bain said.
Bain has been able to talk with other coaches who experienced the brunt sports cancellations, during or just prior to their seasons back in March.
"The coaching staff at Shen are some of the best. The one thing that everyone said to me is to maintain contact with the kids. High school coaches do this for the love of the game and because we love to see these kids succeed," he explained.
"Unfortunately some of them are losing one of the most important parts of their time in high school. We are going to show them that we care as much as we can, doing as many positive things as we can, with whatever we're able to get out of this year."
One of those positives is going to be helping his players get recruited to play soccer in college, given the challenges to doing so without being able to play games.
"Right now, they missed the whole spring recruiting season. I'm hoping to get as much play as possible, so the coaches can at least get a chance to look at kids. Soccer is tough because coaches want to see them play live. Some sports like track and field and swimming are really easy to recruit because they're timed. Soccer is a little bit different," Bain said.
"If we can have a full team scrimmage, then I can video that and kids they can pick out their highlights. I have a robotic camera that follows the game by itself. That has become the easiest thing for players to do now for college coaches, to make highlight reels. If we're not going to be able to play live, which I'm not sure if we will, then we're going to have to get creative."
Since sports have resumed in New York, Shen's players have slowly and steadily been getting back on the field. With activities being increased incrementally, they are close to returning to full size games.
"When we started on July 6, the guys were in about ten yard grids and were just doing on skill work. They couldn't do much defense because they couldn't get near each other. We just got into phase two of the return to play, so that's competition in decreased numbers, so like four v. four and five v. five," Bain said.
"We're following the Eastern New York guidelines and we'll continue to keep the boys sharp and getting them ready until we get the okay from the state that games can start."
If they have to wain until the spring for games to start, there may be some players who are forced to choose a sport, as the condensed seasons of winter, fall and spring sports would overlap.
"I do have some soccer players that are track and field kids. I'm not sure if I have any baseball or lacrosse guys. I had a basketball player last year as well. Doing both would be tough one somebody if that's what happens," Bain said.
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