MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ soccer program will have only its second new coach in the past four decades this fall, as Bret Weekes, an assistant the past four years, has been hired to take over from longtime head coach Doc Seubert.
Seubert, who led the Tigers to a 16-3 record in 2012, had coached the Tigers since the 1970s, with the exception of a two-year hiatus during which MUHS teacher Jeff Clark led the team.
MUHS activities director Sean Farrell said other than taking the required step of offering it to MUHS staff members he did not cast a wide net before handing the job to Weekes, a 46-year-old Utah native and Cornwall resident.
“I just felt like Bret was the natural choice,” Farrell said. “Continuity to me is important for the kids, so there is a familiar face in the program.”
Farrell called Weekes, who has had three sons play soccer for MUHS, “a key component” in the team’s success in 2012, when the Tigers earned the top seed in Division I and reached the semifinal round for the first time.
Farrell also noted that Weekes “has his own ideas” on how the program should be grown and operated.
“He’s really focusing on team unity. They’ve bought team T-shirts with their numbers already on it. They jog from here as a team over to the field,” he said. “So you can get very much a feel that he is trying to get a sense of in-it-together-as-a-team, which I think the boys are responding well to.”
Farrell also said he appreciates Weekes’ emphasis on student-athletes’ academics and personal growth.
“I think he’s still going to be focused on being very competitive when you come right down to it, but he understands the grander picture that we’re educating the whole student here, not just the athlete part,” he said.
In an interview last week, Weekes emphasized that bigger picture.
“I have a strong commitment to the academic aspect of interscholastic athletics … Athletics at this level is about personal development for individuals,” he said. “And we do that through the skills and experiences that we have as a team. We face adversity. We set goals. We achieve goals. And we learn to work together in a united effort in a wide demographic of individuals. And at the end of the day, my philosophy is really about that personal development of the individual.”
Weekes started developing that philosophy as an all-state high school goalie in Utah. After a two-year stay in South Carolina on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, he also played club soccer at Utah Valley University and kept competing until he “hung up his boots” a dozen years ago to coach his oldest son.
He has coached steadily since then, in Utah and then in Middlebury since 2006 when he and his family moved here for both business and personal reasons: He is an executive with software firm eDoc Innovations Inc., and the Middlebury area seemed like a good home in more ways than one.
Weekes called it a “beautiful town” with “economic participation” that is also “close to big markets,” and also allows his family to be “able to live in a small-market community.”
Here, Weekes assisted the Tiger boys’ JV team for one year, and then coached the JV for two years before stepping up to assist Seubert for the past four years.
Weekes said he has enjoyed every step of the way and is looking forward to the next rung.
“Head coach has a little different expectations, but it’s something I’ve always had enjoyment with, coaching, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to expand my coaching role and experience and do some things that will hopefully be productive,” he said.
As one might expect from a former goalie, Weekes will emphasize defense first.
“The game revolves very strongly around defense. (You) build up an attack as a result of defense. So I have a very strong commitment to the defensive aspects of the game,” he said.
Weekes will adapt tactics to personnel, but said he is committed to a formation with four defenders, two defensive midfielders, three offensive midfielders, and one “target” player on the attack.
“I think at this level it helps the kids create the kind of windows I’m looking for,” he said. “It allows me to contract when I want to contract and protect the pipe, the center of the field … and it allows a lot of dynamics.”
Within that structure, Weekes will give athletes freedom to make plays: Most of his coaching will occur in practice.
“I don’t subscribe to the micromanagement style. That’s not to say I won’t give instruction. One of the things I love about this game … is as a player, when I step on the field, I’m really the one in control. You can’t coach it from the sideline,” he said. “That’s one of the things I love about the game, its fluid nature, and that’s why I call it a thinking man’s game.”
Weekes acknowledges he is just part of a different look this fall: 11 of the players who contributed to the Tigers’ outstanding 2012 season have graduated.
“It’s a new era for all kinds of reasons, and we’re really just focused on that, trying to create our own identity, build on the tradition that has been laid out before us … especially last year, which was a prolific year in the history of Middlebury. And I was very happy to be able to participate with that and to see the success of the kids,” he said. “But this year we have a very young squad. We have four seniors, that’s all, so we’re going to be looking to get a lot of help from a lot of young players.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected]