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Brenize named MC boys soccer coach
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
For the past 22 years, Rod Brenize had what he described as the "best seat in the house" at Manheim Central boys soccer games.
"I was the soccer timer, which is a fancy way of saying that I’m the guy that ran the scoreboard," Brenize said. "I liked that my kids were involved in it. Regardless of weather conditions, I was dry. I loved it."
Starting this fall, he will no longer be the soccer timer … er, the guy that runs the scoreboard. But he is very confident that he is going to love his new job with the program.
In February, Brenize was approved by the Manheim Central school board to become the new head coach for the Barons’ boys soccer team, replacing Matt Schwartz, who stepped down at the end of the 2012 season following 13 years at the helm.
"I’m thrilled. I’m so excited," Brenize said. "Can you imagine? I have this awesome nucleus of kids, and when I say that, I’m not talking about just two or three that you would designate as your captain. I have a group of, say, 15 or 20 that are just fully committed to being the best they can be. When I say that, I mean they’re committed to being the best they can be in the classroom, the best young men they can be and the best soccer players they can be. So how can I not get excited about that? I feel extremely blessed."
That nucleus of kids returning for the Central boys includes his son Tanner, one of only two sophomores who earned selection to the Lancaster-Lebanon League All -Star team last fall. His oldest son, Landon, was a senior on the 2012 squad that advanced to the L-L and District Three playoffs. And sixth-grader Carson is in the Barons’ pipeline.
Hard to imagine that the Brenize boys also played baseball at one time. Rod, in fact, coached in the Barons’ baseball program for more than a decade, serving under Hen Bell in the early 90’s and then coaching his MC’s junior varsity squad in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. But that all changed following a conversation one day with his son Landon.
"Landon looked at me at the kitchen table and said, ‘Dad, if you can coach other kids, why can’t you coach me?’ And what am I going to say to that? That was kinda like a melt-your-heart moment," Rod recalled. "I got out then, my kids were small, and my kids did play baseball, but they didn’t stay in baseball."
What they stayed in was soccer.
So the education began for Rod, who had never played soccer – even on the high school level.
But he coached his sons in the Rec league and then eventually in travel ball. By the time Tanner was playing U12, his Manheim Mutiny squad was ranked 12th in the State. Carson is now playing on that Mutiny team and they are 11th in PA, according to gotsoccer.com.
"Of course, I didn’t know a whole lot and I just learned," Rod said. "You go to tournaments, you learn, you learn, you learn. You start to study the game, you start to do all those things."
Still, when the Barons’ head coaching position became available last winter, Brenize wasn’t sure that he was qualified. Initially, he didn’t apply for the job. But then several parents approached him and Brenize changed his mind.
"It was probably seven or eight different families had approached me and said, ‘Rod, you’ve got to do that. You would be great.’ So that’s the reason I applied," Brenize said, "because so many came to me and said, ‘Man, we’ve got to have you do this.’ So I did."
While Brenize might lack soccer coaching experience on the high school level, he doesn’t lack a wealth of resources. He is continually keeping his eyes and ears open for ways to broaden his horizons, learning new drills and tactics which he can implement with his team.
"The trait of a good teacher is you steal things, you pirate things, you borrow things from other good teachers, people that you respect, people that you emulate," Brenize said, "and thus far, I have been doing that at a lot of different levels – the club level, the high school level with a lot of good people that you meet in the soccer sport itself."
Over his 13 years at the helm of the program, Schwartz compiled an overall record of 174-90-7 with two appearances in the State’s Final Four. Brenize acknowledges that there is some pressure stepping into Schwartz’s shoes, but he is confident that he has the pieces in place to get the job done.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Barons have seven players back this season who started as sophomores.
"I’m really coming into a pretty good situation, and like I said, that is also adding to the excitement," Brenize said. "Is there pressure coming in and filling Matt’s shoes? Absolutely. Do I have an action plan? I think so. And have I already started to pull the trigger on the action plan? Yes, absolutely. So I am really, really excited. Just this afternoon (in early May), I had 11 kids on the turf in spite of spring sports. They got out there and did it themselves because they have the leadership and the respect and they’re just awesome young men."
Speaking of someone with leadership qualities, Brenize is a big fan of Gen. Colin Powell and Manheim Central’s new skipper has been influenced by some of his ideas. So it was hardly a surprise then that Brenize went in that direction when talking about the goals that he and his players have for themselves.
It was the subject of discussion when Brenize got his nucleus of players together shortly after receiving school board approval. Following a few minutes of brain-storming, his players unveiled the type of goals that Brenize expected – winning the Section, L-L League, District Three and State titles.
But when pressed, the players also came up with other things.
"(Gen. Powell) has the mentality that you have to picture where you want to end up first, and then after you picture where you want to end up, then how you get there," Brenize said. "(The players) were proud of themselves because they thought (their goals were) what I wanted to hear. It was, but at the same time, if we don’t win a Section championship, did we fail? If we don’t win a District Three championship, did we fail? So they went back to the drawing board and they started writing things down like improving the team, (being) Academic All-Stars in the classroom, being leaders on our team, in our communities, in our families. I mean, some really, really good things were coming out."
With just more than two months remaining until the start of pre-season practices, Brenize believes his Barons have a real sense of momentum.
"I’ve got parents who have bought in, I’ve got kids who have bought in, and they’ve bought in more than just the whole ideal of, ‘Let’s have a goal and let’s go try to get it,’" Brenize said. "They’ve bought into the whole, ‘Hey, we’re going to need to practice, we’re going to need to practice, we’re going to need to practice some more, and then we’re going to need to practice.’ That’s really, really exciting. I’m just so blessed to have these kids."
Now, if Brenize can only find someone to run the scoreboard in the Barons’ press box.
More BRENIZE, page B-5