by Tom Utescher
In two seasons under head coach Adrian Cox, the girls varsity soccer team at Germantown Friends turned in winning records, finished second in the Friends Schools League playoffs in 2012 and 2013, and participated in the Pa. Independent Schools tournament.
However, at the end of the 2013 campaign Cox regretfully told the Tigers that he had accepted a full-time position at another school, so GFS began the search for a new soccer skipper who could build on the past success of the program.
Last month the school announced the hiring of Jeremy Hurdle, who brings experience as a former high school and college player, and coaching credentials earned in highly-regarded club programs. Knowledge absorbed while coaching at another independent school rounds out the package for Hurdle, who will also become a teaching assistant at GFS when the school reopens in the fall.
In a news release from the school, Director of Athletics Katie Bergstrom Mark said, “We are excited for Coach Hurdle to bring a fresh dynamic to the soccer program at GFS. I appreciate his dedication to learning the craft of coaching.”
Hurdle noted, “They’re looking to continue and expand the already-successful girls soccer tradition at GFS. They like the experience I’m bringing, and they also appreciate the passion I have for the game.
“I think we’re already on the same page regarding the goals of a high school program,” Hurdle continued. “Winning is certainly important, but some things that trump that are creating a close-knit team, and developing the potential of the players.”
A native of Ambler, Pa., Hurdle attended Wissahickon High School, where he played four years of varsity soccer. He recalled that during that time, the Trojans won the Suburban One League twice and earned a spot in the PIAA District 1 tournament in all four seasons.
From there, it was on to McGill University in Montreal, where he was a four-year starter for the Redmen. He was an all-conference selection and was team captain in his senior season.
Before graduating in 2012, he had become involved in coaching youth soccer back home, and he has continued in that endeavor, working with young athletes of many ages. At the Yardley Makefield Soccer Club (YMS), he’s piloting the rising Under-14 girls team and the Under-17 boys team, as well as conducting training sessions for other squads. Earlier he had coached with the Philadelphia Soccer Club.
Hurdle had some exposure to the world of independent school soccer in the fall of 2013, when he was the assistant coach for the boys’ third team at Germantown Academy.
He has also sought to hone his teaching skills, participating in programs offered by various professional organizations that train and certify soccer coaches, such as the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) and the United States Soccer Federation (USSF).
The annual convention of the NSCAA happened to be held in Philadelphia this year, and while attending the January gathering, Hurdle saw a posting for the job opening at GFS. Right around the same time, he was told about the opportunity by a former Germantown Academy colleague.
This was a significant development for Hurdle; in addition to being hired as the girls varsity coach, he was eventually offered a teaching position in the GFS lower school.
“I think there’s a big advantage to working on campus during the day,” he observed. “You get to interact with the players a little bit off the field, and you get a better feel for the academic community that they’re coming from.”
While discussing the recent history of the Tigers’ soccer teams with Bergstrom Mark, Hurdle recognized that GFS was in the same general situation as many other schools.
“The norm in high school programs is to have a handful of soccer-specific athletes and then other talented athletes who might specialize in other sports. That’s really not much of a drawback, because the high school game tends to favor raw talent.
“What you’ve got to do as a coach,” he went on, “is try to put your primary soccer players in key positions, and then see where you can make the best use of the raw talent of some other athletes who aren’t as technically advanced. That’s also part of the teaching aspect of coaching, adjusting to a wide range of experience. On the same team, you can go from the club players who live and breathe soccer to the athletes who have little exposure to soccer outside of the school season.”
Working at a kindergarten through 12th-grade institution adds another interesting element into the mix.
“What that does,” Hurdle said, “is let you establish a coaching philosophy that trickles down from the varsity to the middle school and even to grade school. When a developing player moves up and has coaches who are pretty much on the same page, that benefits the entire program.”
It’ll be another month before Hurdle and his new charges get their pre-season practices underway, but as he relates, “I’ve met some of the players and they have their summer training programs, so it’s already beginning.”