Under an ocean of sun block, fair-skinned, Hall of Fame coach Mike Kemp fielded a familiar five of Braden Kemp, Eric Brody, Randall Congreaves, Asyed Sanchez and Bryson Pink in a tune up event for Nationals in August. It was the first time the Sharks, reigning National and World Champions, have played 3 v 3 since Worlds in January, and due to events this spring these five and Mikey Lynch represent the last vestige of a proud and formidable Central Florida soccer legacy. A legacy I am probably ill-suited to write, but as I am the only one with a blog feel compelled to try.
The Sharks began in Hunter’s Creek under Scott Brody. Blessed with progressive coaching and a fortuitous player pool, the team achieved success disproportionate with their neighborhood origins, and attracted the interest of talented players throughout Central Florida. As change is threatening to the status quo and more specifically those incapable of controlling it, small minded politics pushed the team from Hunter’s Creek to FC America. Success and acclaim followed the team, who rose in state and national rankings.
Inevitably, the arc of player development and the art of player recruitment necessitated a certain percentage of roster turnover from year to year. It is a badge of honor to have been a Shark at some point in one’s playing career. In the spring of 2012, my son Bryson was so honored in what would become the Sharks final season as a full team.
After a largely successful 2012-2013 campaign that featured three tournament titles, two league titles and a final four run in the State Cup, the Sharks all, but vanished. The seventeen man team was absorbed in parts into Developmental Academies and rival clubs. It was tumultuous, sad and ultimately unavoidable. Within three days of our semifinal State Cup loss, all that remained were the photographs of team manager Hal Katz, the memories and hopefully the bonds of friendship forged by hours spent under the sun on bleachers and soccer chairs.
Always within the umbrella of the Sharks, there was 3 v 3, a sort inner circle that embodies the core values of the whole….first touch, ball rolling on the grass from one shark’s foot to another, friendship and fun. Now it is all that remains, but know that it remains vibrant and sacred.
Today’s tournament was a competitive farce. We won the opener 7-1 against what turned out to be the second best team at the event. The second game finished 15-3, the third 10-0 by halftime, and the third 10-0 thirty seconds into the second half. We got a cheap medal and a t-shirt to take home. More importantly for four and half hours we shared a tent, sandwiches and laughter as our boy’s played “good soccer”, and for about twelve minutes three forty-plus fathers played 3 v 3 against their sons, the Sharks, and damn near beat em before falling 5-4 in the most competitive match of the day.