The Nantucket High School Boys Soccer Team has recently had a mass exodus of boys from the team. Players, mainly upperclassmen, have decided that they will cut their soccer career a little sooner than planned. Many dropped out just a week after preseason started. Now, more than ten athletes have dropped off the team. It seems that for the most part, players are having difficulties juggling not only schoolwork and extracurriculars but also feel their place on the team was not valued by the coaching staff.
Some of the athletes expressed their disappointment in certain decisions that Head Coach Rich Brannigan made. Senior Brandon Menjivar, the team’s previous varsity goalie, quit two weeks into the season. Menjivar stated on leaving the team, “I didn’t like how the coach treated his players and I felt I had better use for my time than to be on a team where you weren’t respected or acknowledged.”
Menjivar also claimed that Coach Brannigan threatened to convince Nantucket High School Athletic Director Chris Maury to disallow him from playing any other school sport if he quit.
Menjivar decided to leave after the first game.
Seniors Zander Trudel and Liam Connole also left, followed by juniors Spencer West, Hudson Ho-Shue, Henry Dupont, Owen Hudson, Mookie Richards, Jack Mcgowan and Hunter MacEachern later in the season.
The boys who quit in the beginning of the season seemed to set an example for many of the other boys on the team. After the initial group of juniors and seniors quit, many others began following lead. Students since then have been dropping out each week since the school year started, finding other extracurriculars to occupy their time.
West explains, “I left soccer because it was no longer fun for me while playing under Mr. Brannigan, and I could use my time better.”
Dupont realized that soccer was a huge commitment early in the season, and he quickly discovered that he needed to focus on his schoolwork and his involvement with the school newspaper. With too much on his plate, Dupont decided to leave the team. He expressed his desire to play next year, but felt that taking as many AP classes as he was, it wasn’t realistic for him to be spending so much time on the soccer field and away from his academic commitments.
“The team responded well,” said Dupont. “No hard feelings between myself and the players or myself and the coach.”
Coach Brannigan has been coaching the boys team for years, and has led the boys to playoffs almost every season. Assistant Coach Peter Mehlert was added to the coaching staff three years ago after having coached at American University for almost two decades. Both coaches are dedicated to the success of the team, some athletes however expressed their concern over the fact that their tactics do not allow for a fair amount of play time.
Almost all the athletes on the team have been long-term members, beginning freshman year on junior varsity and working their way up. However this year specifically many players were surprised by their lack of playing time and inevitably had to weigh the costs of spending time on the field and being able to focus more on academics and extracurriculars.
From an Athletic Director perspective, Maury had a different take on the situation.
“Quitting is a selfish act that provides an easy way out,” said Maury. “As a parent, I always maintained a rule with my children that when they sign up for something they make a full
commitment to it, work to the best of their abilities at it, and they finish it. Facing adversity and challenges is what builds character and strength in young adults. Interscholastic athletics is a great mechanism for teaching these important life lessons.”
Though winning is a primary objective in all team sports at NHS, many of the boys agreed that the whole idea of playing soccer in high school is to enjoy yourself, and if that atmosphere is not created, athletes will lose interest in athletic programs.
Since the mass exodus for players, the team has had a somewhat shaky start to their usually perfect record season, losing to Barnstable and Sturgis West in two surprising losses.
Though each player holds no regrets towards their leave from the team, they will still continue to support their friends on the team and recognize the lessons they have learned throughout their experience.
Brannigan refused to comment.