SIDELINE SCENE: Coaches spend unseen hours finding college homes for unheralded stars
| 9:01 a.m. April 23, 2015
There is plenty that high school coaches do that we can see — time put in at practices and games, working to develop young players.
There is even plenty of stuff that we kind of assume they do, too. We might assume, for instance, that a coach spends hours at night game-planning and watching game tape.
Then, of course, there is the stuff that few, if any, see or realize is happening.
There is the time coaches put in as they work to find college destinations for players, making phone calls and making the most of relationships with college coaches that may have taken years to develop because, the truth is, not every kid can be the star player who has college coaches fawning.
For most varsity athletes who want to continue playing at the next level, perhaps even for free by way of a scholarship, this means having to sell themselves to coaches as opposed to the other way around.
It is a process that can require great patience and be difficult and, at times, frustrating. Just ask Olympia boys soccer senior goalkeeper Darryl Baptiste.
In two years since moving here from Haiti, Baptiste — who had never played organized soccer in his native country — became one of Orange County’s elite goalkeepers this past winter. When his senior season ended, things looked promising, as several small four-year schools and a number of junior colleges expressed sincere interest in the keeper who is clearly a fast-learner.
The problem is, despite having markedly improved his grades over the two years he was at Olympia, Baptiste still has had trouble landing a scholarship offer because of academics.
Even as graduation looms, he is searching for a home for the fall — something with which head coach Lou Romao is glad to help.
“I’m kind of struggling with it, but coach Lou is the only one that has been helping me,” Baptiste said. “I thought it was going to be more easy. … Coming from another country, to come here, it’s hard work.”
Romao works especially hard for players such as Baptiste, who do not have the time or extra income to spend on playing club soccer. Because that is where most of the recruiting is currently done for soccer, the Titans head coach has to work a little harder and lean on college coaches to come out to varsity games.
“Not everybody can afford club soccer,” Romao said, while clarifying that he has no problem with club soccer. “Therefore, there are plenty of players who are just as skilled, if not better, out there that play high school and don’t have the time or the money to play club.
“A lot of the players get forgotten by those college coaches,” he said. “So it’s our job, as high-school coaches, to actually reach out to those coaches.”
Romao gets passionate when speaking about helping some of his players who cannot afford the fees or travel costs associated with club soccer, but he — like so many coaches — tries to help each of his players.
Jayson Moorman, a junior, does play club soccer in addition to playing varsity for the Titans, and he said being able to lean on the network Romao has developed over the years is an advantage on which he hopes to capitalize.
“It’s really great that he has all those connections and that he can help me get to where I need to get to succeed,” Moorman said. “He’s doing more (for us) than we even think. … It’s really great to see.”
Olympia’s boys soccer team had a solid season, eventually falling to Evans in the district tournament in a close, well-played match. Despite losing a handful of seniors, including Newberry College signee Jackson Mumford, Romao seems particularly excited as he talks about who he has coming back and what the future has in store for his program.
Still, he compartmentalizes between his aspirations to win and what he considers to be his real job.
“Who doesn’t want to win states as a coach?” he’ll ask, rhetorically. “But my top priority — I know I’ve succeeded by having these boys go on to play in college.”
It’s something he has done for others, and something he still hopes to do for Baptiste. In the coming weeks, the talented senior will play in a few showcases and continue dialogue with a handful of junior colleges. Whatever happens, Baptiste is grateful to have someone in his corner.
“It’s something that I never thought someone would do for me,” he said. “It’s myself or coach Lou — he’s the one that has been helping me since Day One. I really thank him. I’m a good goalkeeper, and it’s because of him.”