By Emily J. Weitz
Growing up in Sag Harbor, soccer was a key aspect of the Hartnett brothers’ lives. Just a year apart, they played in the youth soccer programs and then as members of the Pierson High School Varsity team, and each took his turn as captain in his senior year. Now they are getting back to basics, starting a clinic for East End kids who are looking to hone their skills with college athletes.
Brook Hartnett, who graduated from Pierson in 2011, went on to play at the nationally ranked Drew University this past year. His younger brother Sean, who graduated from Pierson last week, is hoping to play at SUNY Geneseo when he matriculates this fall.
“Soccer brings great structure to a kid’s life,” says Brook. “You go to school, go to practice, come home and do your homework.”
“It also teaches organization, leadership, teamwork, and team building,” adds Sean. “In order to be successful in soccer, you need to be a team. In baseball you can hit five homeruns, in basketball you can score a lot of points. But in soccer, you need to pass. You need to get assists.”
“It’s the epitome of a team game,” says Brook.
It’s this kind of team-building that the Hartnetts believe really prepares kids for success in life. But it’s a skill they wish they had had more of growing up, even on the soccer field.
“For me,” says Sean, “growing up here I never had a base of fundamental skills I learned. I just kind of ran up the field and scored, but I never learned how to do it.”
This is what they hope to provide through the clinics. Hosted by Hampton Youth Sports, a youth sports advocacy group based in Sag Harbor, these clinics will provide kids with valuable skill-building drills that they can then apply in their scrimmages and games.
“There are plenty of clinics where kids can show up and scrimmage,” says Brook. “But for us, we are trying to develop the players’ skills and emphasize the team game.”
He also points out the importance of young kids seeing that older kids are actually doing this after high school, and that if they stick to it, they can too.
“We serve as role models,” he says, “so they see that people are doing this after high school, and that they could come out of Pierson and get on a good college team and play, like I had the privilege of doing last year.”
Having a different authority figure to look to and learn from is also valuable, says Sean. Anything to bolster what the kids are already getting through the school.
“I’ve had the same coach from 8th grade through varsity,” he says, “so having a different voice will be helpful. Our school is so small, and we have a program, but not like a big school does.”
What the Hartnett brothers really hope to provide is something that will fill in the gaps for kids in Sag Harbor. And, having gone through the programs themselves, they know what those gaps are.
“I think,” says Sean, “that foundation of fundamental skills, like how to pass, how to shoot, and how to work together as a team, is something I never had.”
“It’s back to basics,” says Brook. “Keeping your head up when you dribble, learning triangle offense. It’s a privilege to be able to come back and work with the kids here. We grew up here and never had this – someone coming back and helping us to start a foundation for younger players to build on.”
Soccer clinics will take place at Sag Harbor Elementary School on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 8:45 to 10 a.m., from July 7 to August 5. Cost is $10 per session or $100 for the ten-session series. Call 965-9073 for details.