3 v 3 Nationals: The Gun at a Knife Fight


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“It may sound funny, but remember who you are. You are ODP State Players, Region Team Players, DA Players. You are good.” – Mike Kemp

The Sharks entered Nationals with a talented six man roster of Mikey Lynch, Braden Kemp, Asyed Sanchez, Randall Congreaves, Bryson Pink and Danny Lynch, Mikey’s younger brother playing two years up in place of veteran point man, Eric Brody. Coach Mike Kemp’s words may have felt superfluous given that his team was reigning National and World 3 v 3 Champions and unbeaten in their last 16 competitive games, but they spoke to the simple, but profoundly purposeful manner of his coaching.

His players are good, very good. He expects them to play that way and let’s them know when they don’t. He holds them to the standard of their collective ability.

Collective ability…half of this weekend’s roster didn’t win National’s last summer with the Sharks, in fact two of them, Randall Congreaves and Asyed Sanchez were on the losing side of last year’s final. Randall and Asyed played with the Sharks full-side team along with the rest of the vanquished Lions, and before that final game Mike Kemp had both teams warm up together as brothers.

Asyed and Randall won Worlds with the Sharks in January. Mike Kemp sends an email after each tournament with his thoughts and praise. The final line of the post-Worlds email was not about winning, but about how the boy’s acted as brother’s all weekend.

It was this brotherhood that kept me at practice Thursday to hear the words that started this post. I had intended to leave ten or fifteen minutes in, but from the moment all six boy’s arrived, I was captivated by the sincerity of their brotherhood manifested in sarcastic comments and easy laughter. After practice, they ate lunch, watched movies, clogged a toilet and spent the night together.

“One v One….Two v One….backside….high pressure….step….up two…..up three….keep it.” – Mike Kemp

This is the language of 3 v 3. The clear and concise commands heard throughout each game that define the tactics, concepts and mentality of Mike Kemp and the Sharks. It is not invention as much as disciplined adherence to this language that is responsible for their success. There is genius in the simplicity of the game’s necessities that liberates the talented Sharks to play with uncluttered minds.

“I know one thing. I’m coaching in the final today.” -Mike Kemp

The semi-final pitted the Sharks against the Sharpshooters, who are also coached by Mike Kemp. The teams train together, share a passion for 3 v 3, but have their own identities. The Sharpshooters are slightly smaller in physical stature and seem to favor pranks over sarcasm. The game posed an interesting threat to the Sharks with the opponents being so familiar with one another. Kemp, of course, coached the Sharks in the semi-final, and won 5-1 in a tense match.

The Sharks won the final 5-1 as well to defend their National title and extend the winning streak to 22 games. For the weekend they scored 48 goals and conceded only 5 in six games. They scored at least give in every game they played. The statistics are staggering, but this weekend wasn’t completely about winning. Talent-wise, the Sharks had the only gun at a knife fight.

“This is so sad.” – Rodney Congreaves

We stood outside the House of Pizza in South Orlando trying to come to grips with our goodbyes. Randall and Asyed will be playing for Orlando City’s developmental academy, Bryson and Braden Orlando City’s U-15 team, Eric Tampa Bay United and the brother’s Lynch leave next Sunday for a year in Germany. At this point, it’s unclear if the Sharks will be available in any configuration to defend their World title next January.

“It’s only 3 v 3.” – Mike Kemp

I haven’t had a conversation about 3 v 3 with Mike that doesn’t include this comment at some point. On some level it is sincere, but it belies the passion he has to win and what 3 v 3 has come to mean to the Sharks and Sharpshooters he coaches. It is a family of playing brothers that he has masterfully raised.

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