Let’s say you coach a high school sports team that has won two consecutive state championships.
The seniors that led last year’s team have graduated; your rising senior captains are new to their role; and your crop of new players don’t know any of their teammates.
This is the reality for Lansing boys soccer coach Benji Parkes, who used the off-season to build continuity into his squad and build their community.Thursday, during lunch break at the Adam Heck Soccer Camp, Parkes and his three co-captains talked about their program.
Seniors Joe Besemer (center defender), Matt Weill (center back) and Mason Edwards (midfielder) have known nothing but success in their high school soccer careers. Since they were freshmen, the team has gone to three straight final four weekends and won the whole thing twice.
For these captains and their team, the 2019 season began right after the New Year.
“We started with ‘Friday Night Soccer,’” Edwards began. “We coached kids for two hours every Friday night.”
“We were at the rink.” Weill said. “We helped coach the kindergartners through sixth graders.”
From there, Besemer said, they ran drills and scrimmaged.
“By the end, we kind of took over,” Mason said. “Coach Chris Fagan was supervising, but we were running everything. It was fun.”
Besemer said he enjoyed the experience, as well.
“It’s good to give back and develop young soccer players,” Besemer said. Weill said those soccer players come to their games.
After 20 weeks of coaching the 60 or so boys and girls, the team moved on to its next challenge.
“In May, we started ‘Saturday Soccer” at Myers Park with Coach Brian Streb,” Parkes said. “That was one hour a week for five Saturdays for kindergartners through third graders.”
Later that month, Parent Teacher Student Organization President Kristin Hopkins called for ten people to help with Lansing Middle Schools Fifth and Sixth Grade Activity Night, and 20 soccer players showed up.
“We just hung out with the kids and made sure that they had a good time,” Besemer said.
In early August, the team turned to the Cayuga Lake Triathlon, showing up the day before to put up barriers and bike racks and such, and on the day of the race to take it all down.
“I think I still have blisters from banging in stakes,” Edwards said.
Finally, this past week, the captains and their team turned back to soccer, coaching some of the more than 240 kids who came to Lansing from as near as Southern Cayuga and as far away as Cincinnati to get a jump on the soccer season.
“This is really the start of the pre-season,” Parkes said. “There’s no playing, but it’s good to get back into the soccer mindset.”
Teaching soccer gives a better understanding of it, Edwards said.
“And, putting it into words helps you understand it yourself,” Besemer added.
And it’s good for the team, according to Parkes.
“We turn in the new year toward next year’s team,” Parkes said. “We get together with the new guys and we do it early.”
Edwards and Besemer agreed that it is a bonding experience for them, bringing them closer together.
“This way, when August comes, we’re not introducing ourselves to the younger players. We can jump right into pre-season with a lot of respect for the guys in camp,” Parkes said.
Two state championships in a row inevitably leads to questions about a third.
“Oh, great – ‘the question,’” Weill said.
Edwards said that, for now, they are unsure as to the answer, but after pre-season, he thinks they’ll have a better idea.
“Every team has an even chance,” Parkes said. “We have to have that mindset.”
Besemer said he’s not focused on that part of the season, instead focusing on the now.
“We’ll see where our season ends up,” Parkes said.
Pancake Breakfast After Lighthouse 5K
The Lansing High School Girls Varsity Soccer Team will host a pancake breakfast Aug. 24 at 9 a.m. immediately following the Lighthouse 5K at the All Saints Church Parish Hall. Tickets are $7 in advance and $8 at the door. The meal will include pancakes, egg bake, potatoes, sausage, and coffee and juice. Proceeds benefit Lansing Girls Soccer.
The Town of Lansing Events Committee is planning the “Lansing Community Celebration” carnival Sept. 6 and 7 at the Lansing Central Fire Station. Friday hours will be 6 to 10 p.m. Events include fireworks after dark, a “Li’l Miss and Mister Contest” and the band “Raised on Radio.” Saturday’s hours are 1 to 10 p.m. Events include “D.J. Dawg” from 1 to 10 p.m., dance and cheer exhibitions, and a parade at 6 p.m.Throughout the event, there will be rides and games, fried dough, popcorn, a dunking booth, vendor booths, food and a 50/50 raffle.More information and forms for contest and parade entries can be found at www.lansingeventscommittee.com.
Lansing Summer Lunchbox Fall Stock-Up
Free nutritious and delicious breakfast and lunch foods are available for all families who have students enrolled in Lansing Schools (including pre-school siblings). Boxes are packed to last at least one month and include non-perishable breakfast and lunch foods such as cereal, juice, pancake mix, canned tuna and chicken, soup, pasta and rice. Snack items and fresh fruits will be included as available.
Pick up will be Aug. 27 and 28 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at the Community Recreation Center (The Rink).
If you want more information or if you need help signing up, please contact LansingSummerLunchbox@gmail.com.
The Lansing Summer Lunchbox Program is free due to the generous support of the Triad Foundation.
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