action:article | category:SPORTS | adString:SPORTS | zoneID:40

Home » Sports

August 17. 2014 7:54PM

New challenges in a new school season for Exeter and other NH high schools


Exeter hockey coach Jim Tufts instructs his players vs. Manchester Central at JFK in Manchester Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. (Mark Bolton/UNION LEADER)

It’s the first day of high school practice for soccer, field hockey, volleyball, golf and cross country across the state, and boys’ soccer coach Jim Tufts of Exeter still has the passion.

“This is my 38th season and I still enjoy it,” said Tufts, who has also served 37 years as the school’s head varsity ice hockey coach. “I don’t think of what I do as work. For me, I have fun going to school every day teaching and coaching the kids.”

Tufts said the first day of practice presents different challenges each year. “If you have a veteran team coming back, the goal is to keep them focused and motivated for the new season. If you have a new group of kids coming in, you have to go back to the basics and start from there.”

Tufts said coaching soccer today is different than 40 years ago.

“The game has changed,” he said. “Forty years ago on the first day of practice, I’d begin teaching the kids the skills and concepts of the game. Today with so many youth programs around year ’round, the kids already have the skills when they begin high school practice. This week I start teaching them advance levels of the game. To me the first week is like a puzzle. All the kids bring something to the table and my job is to figure out where the pieces fit best.”

Starting today, figured Tufts, he has about 14 or 15 practices to get ready for the start of the regular season. “We open our season on Aug. 29, giving us about 11 days to get ready,” he said. “We’ll hold double sessions three days this week before teachers report to work Thursday. School starts next Monday for us. Conditioning and skill work go hand in hand in practice leading up to our first game.”

Tufts said 110 kids will report to the team’s practice at Bill Ball Stadium today. “We’ll eventually have four soccer teams this fall,” said Tufts. “We’ll have a varsity team, two junior varsity teams and a freshman team. Playing on turf is a godsend. Speed and quickness are important elements in soccer and the turf field is the perfect surface. They’ll be times this year when we’ll share Ball Stadium with the football or field hockey team. Every team benefits from practicing on the turf.”

Tufts said he enjoys watching his kids grow over a four-year period. “I’ll get a 5-foot-6 freshman this week and hopefully in four years, he’ll blossom into a 6-foot-3 standout senior. That’s the best part of my role as coach: to watch the kids grow and excel to the best of their ability. I never get tired of it.”

Last year the Bedford High girls’ soccer team, under head coach Michelle Winning, captured the Division I state title. Winning said the first week of practice this week will be different than last summer.

“The biggest challenge this season is to keep our girls level-headed,” she said. “We do set team and individual goals and obviously our biggest goal will be to return to the championship game. Having said that, we know we can’t do that this week or this month. So we begin by setting smaller, but important goals. The girls coming back know what it takes to win a state championship. They also know they have to work for it like last year.”

Winning projects 57 players will attend the team’s first practice today. She said her biggest challenge over the next 11 days leading up to the first regular-season game against Manchester Central is to get everyone on the same page.

“During the off-season, we don’t have corps of players playing together,” said Winning. “Many of our girls are playing in different places, under different coaches with different systems. Now I’ve got to mesh them back together to play our system.” Winning is entering her seventh season at the helm. Bedford has qualified for the Division I state title game the last two seasons, finishing runner-up to Exeter in 2012 before knocking off the four-time champion Blue Hawks last fall.

High school football practices in Division I and II began last Wednesday. Division III gridders hit the fields on Wednesday.

jhabib@unionleader.com


 NH Sports Angle more
Links to news and happenings around the world of sports with a Granite State connection, updated daily.

New OT rule in AHL generating buzz

Slam thunk! Sarah Silverman nearly hit by basketball at Knicks game... but luckily John McEnroe is there to shield her

Spurs' Matt Bonner will wear new Adidas Crazy 8 shoes for Christmas game

Jason Saltmarsh: Runners should never have to pay for their race photos

Ex-official pleads guilty to embezzling thousands from Pembroke football nonprofit

Former New Hampshire goalie DeSmith tells his side of arrest, dismissal from team

NH hockey team moving to Maine could be worth at least $1 million in economic activity say city officials

New owners of Claremont plan to put speedway back on track

Speedway in Claremont bought for nearly $519,000

Lebanon marathoner qualifies for US Olympic Trials

Matt Bonner talks about the end of the run, making the simple play, and playing until he's 40

Ex-UNH goalie agrees to diversion,receive counseling, avoids jail

Wildcats will face Chattanooga in prime time

New England Revolution forward Charlie Davies teaches supporters how to believe

Helmetless Football? Its the new practice at UNH

CASEY DeSMITH

DeSmith officially dismissed from New Hampshire team, but can return to class as of Dec. 20

San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner (15), of Concord, N.H., shoots the ball against Boston Celtics center Tyler Zeller (44) during the second half at TD Garden.

Rapper Lil B gives shoutout to…Matt Bonner?

Manchester Central's Tyler Stratton watches his shot get by Spaulding High School (Rochester) goalie Derek Scott during a shootout at the 2012 Bauer Christmas Hockey Classic hosted at JFK Coliseum in Manchester.

VFW downsizing threatens Spaulding hockey due to loss of venue for Bingo fundraisers

Eagles notes: Kelly committed to current job

5 face riot charges in beating incident at football game

Ayotte rips top sports league commissioners for snubbing hearing on domestic violence

Manchester Monarchs sign Josh Gratton to AHL contract

Can football without helmets lead to fewer concussions?

MORE

 New Hampshire Events Calendar
    

    SHARE EVENTS FOR PUBLICATION, IT'S FREE!

Upcoming Events

 New Hampshire Business Directory

  

    ADD YOUR BUSINESS TODAY!