The Pawling High School Boys’ Soccer program has been enjoying a successful season this fall. According to Varsity Coach Travis Light, the Tigers’ accomplishments on the field are the result of a program set in motion over the past four years.
When Light began his tenure as coach of the Pawling squad five years ago, there was no Junior Varsity team. “Many of these players came in as eighth graders with good talent and were successful as a modified team,” he explains. “With no JV team for the boys to play on and grow, many of them were asked to take a huge leap of growing, not only in athletic ability, but also in sports IQ and intensity.”
Three seasons ago, only twenty-four athletes came out for the team. This left Coach Light and Assistant Coach Steve Malone at a crossroads as they considered the direction of the program. The two decided that for the soccer program to be successful, a JV squad was needed to help players grow and develop as athletes. “We made the difficult decision to split twelve and twelve and make a JV and Varsity team,” recalls Light. “When we informed the players and parents of this decision, there was much concern and hesitation. I asked them to please trust me.”
Following a meeting with parents and players, Coach Light began to consider the ramifications of the decision to split the squad into two teams. He came to the conclusion that for the program to be successful, his players would need to be “ironmen.”
On the first day of pre-season practice, Coach Light explained to his players what his new philosophy entailed. “Most kids looked at me and didn’t know what that meant,” he says. He then outlined the principles of “Ironmen Soccer,” which his teams would need to embrace if they were to find success on the field.
We will play eighty minutes with no pain.
We will play all summer.
We will make a commitment to soccer.
We will not give up.
We will practice four hours a day instead of two.
We will each be the best player and teammate.
Lastly, we do not have fear or doubt.
The Ironmen Soccer philosophy would continue to evolve over the next two years, continuing into the current season. This year, the Varsity and JV rosters each contain fourteen players. In June, Coach Light once again held a meeting for his players, and outlined a new set of goals.
Make history and break the cycle.
Cut goal deferential down in half.
With these goals firmly established, Pawling soccer is well on its way to accomplishing each one. The squad’s defense is led by Sweeper Brian Beehler, and junior goalkeeper Andrew Beck. The Tigers’ goal deferential has dropped from 80 to 37 to 15 over the past three years. Coach Light credits some of the team’s success to the performance of some of the squad’s younger players. “Our freshmen and sophomores have stepped up,” he says. “Key players such as Alex Reda, Joseph Castellano and Alex Salazar have really led our offense and put the work in on the right areas.”
Thus far, the squad has earned a 6-4 record, including upsets over Irvington, Haldane, Putnam Valley, and rival Dover. The Tigers have already earned more victories this season than the past five years combined.
As the Tigers advance toward their preseason goals, Coach Light acknowledges the many factors that have contributed to the success of Ironmen Soccer: “Each player is held to a higher standard each day. I also could not be the coach I am today without the great help of my assistant coach. Between his knowledge and analysis of game play, we find a great balance in what our athletes need and are able to identify our weaknesses. Ultimately, our ability to be good lies within each player. We play as a family, and treat everyone like a family member.”