Bradley to coach Darien boys' soccer after five seasons with girls
Jon Bradley knows Darien soccer. The veteran soccer coach got his first taste of Darien soccer as an assistant on the girls' varsity team from 2002-2004, and after briefly serving as the head coach of the girls' soccer team at Brien McMahon High School, Bradley returned for his second stint with the Darien girls' team, this time as a head coach, a position which he's held for the last five years.
This offseason, the head coaching position for the boys' team opened up, and Bradley was been hired to fill the vacancy, stepping into the position previously held by Nicolea Piperea. Bradley will be charged with the task of helping to turn around a boys' soccer team that won only twice in the 2010 season.
"I was in England when the coach resigned and had a few days to decide if I was interested in switching over to the boys program," Bradley said. "I was very excited when it was made official and am looking forward to the season."
Although he's elated for his new coaching position at Darien High School, the choice to leave the girls' team was certainly not an easy one for Bradley.
"It was a tough decision to leave the girls, as my time with them has been brilliant, but I want the challenge of bringing the boys program back," Bradley said. "It has been down for too long. I love the girls and always will. I will continue to coach them on my Premier team at Eastern FC."
In 2010, Bradley coached the girls' soccer team to an 11-6-1 mark and a Class L State Tournament appearance as the No. 16 seed. The Blue Wave picked up a 3-0 win over No. 17 Woodstock Academy in the opening round, setting the stage for what was probably the highlight of the season, a 1-0 win over top-seeded Watertown. Darien would go on to lose 1-0 in penalty kicks against No. 8 Bunnell in the quarterfinals.
Darien athletic director John Keleher indicated that it was beneficial to be able to hire someone who already had lengthy experience and a wealth of success with Darien soccer. The team's first scrimmage is Sept. 2 at home against Blind Brook, NY, leaving Bradley and his new team with about a month to prepare.
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"Because of his relationship with Darien soccer, he knows these kids backward and forwards," Keleher said. "There are obviously differences in coaching girls and boys, but the game itself -- which Jon knows very well - is the same game. He's a proven commodity in this town and the boys are ecstatic."
Although the boys' team scuffled to a record of 2-7-6 in 2010, four of the losses were by a single goal, and Keleher believes that success is not far away.
"Some of the losses were by one goal and we were not far away from being 8-8 or 10-8," Keleher said. "I thought our team played the highest quality of soccer that I've seen in the nine or so seasons that I've watched them. I don't think it will be a miracle if they win six or eight games next year."
Bradley's hiring creates a head coaching vacancy for the girls' team, one which must be filled before the season starts. Keleher said he's in the process of interviewing candidates and that he plans on meeting with the girls' soccer captains prior to making a final decision.
"We had five or six very qualified people that applied for the boys' job, and three have said that they would be very interested in the girls, so we have a pretty good pool of people to look into to find Jon's replacement," Keleher said. "We certainly didn't want the girls to feel short-changed, and we hope that sometime by the middle to the end of next week we'll have a girls coach in line too."
As is usually the case for high school teams, Darien High School's newest coach has his sights set on a State Tournament appearance in 2011.
"We will start with the goal of qualifying for the State Tournament, and then over the next five years we will try and become a consistently good and respected program," Bradley said. "In order to win more games the boys will need to believe in themselves. I am going to change the mindset and the culture. They have a fantastic work ethic and I am going to use this to push them and challenge them."