Sports Person of the Week
Brooks Ready for Battle on the Soccer Field
Michael Brooks has been a varsity starter for the Valley Regional boys’ soccer squad since his freshman season. Michael is a staunch defender and hopes to pick up some of the slack as a senior leader this year. (Photo courtesy of Michael Brooks )
Michael Brooks is preparing for his fourth season as a starting varsity player with the Valley Regional boys’ soccer team. Michael mans the center back position for the Warriors and anticipates reprising that role again this year, provided that fall sports get the go-ahead to move forward.
Valley’s 2019 season was characterized by numerous injuries, although the Warriors still posted a .500 record and qualified for the Class M State Tournament. Michael hopes that he and his teammates can put together a memorable run in 2020.
When Michael first joined the Warriors, Head Coach Mick Fearon knew that he had a capable varsity player at his disposal. Michael slotted into the backfield for Valley, and he’s been patrolling the defensive end of the pitch ever since. Michael is proud of that fact.
“The one thing I guess that stands out to me is that I’ve been playing varsity since I was a freshman. I wasn’t really expecting that at the time,” says Michael. “When I was a freshman, I was playing a bit of Premier soccer, but I didn’t expect to get a starting spot right away.”
With all of his varsity experience, Michael believes that he’s in a good position to be an effective leader for Valley this year. The team’s captains have yet to be named, but whether or not Michael is a captain, he’s ready to provide guidance to anyone who needs it.
“Being on varsity as long as I have been has kind of made me see that I have to return the favor and show some sort of leadership,” Michael says. “That’s not just me, though. All the seniors feel this way, because we’re the oldest. I would definitely say that experience has helped.”
Michael has always lined up on defense throughout his soccer career. Last year, he really had to step up as one of Valley’s defensive field generals at the center back position.
“I’ve mostly played in the central role, either center defensive mid or center back. I played right back and left back as a freshman, but last year, I really had to show leadership from the middle,” Michael says. “I was pretty much controlling the backfield. My voice was heard telling people who they should be on, watching passing lanes, watching people make overlaying runs. The keeper does it as well, but it’s hard for them to see everything when they’re far away from the action.”
When it comes to halting an opposing offense, Michael finds that the most effective strategy is to anticipate where the ball is headed and then cut it off at the pass.
“The one thing that I like to do is that I try to block off passing lanes,” says Michael, an Essex resident. “I’ll try to get to the ball before it reaches someone and play it up from there. That creates momentum for us on offense.”
Michael learned a lot about leadership while taking a more active role in communicating with his fellow defenders last season. Michael believes that experience will help him if he’s tapped to wear the captain’s hat this year.
“Being captain is definitely something that I’m interested in. It feels weird talking about it, but I know that people look up to me, and my voice has authority,” Michael says. “People listen when I have something to say, so obviously, I’d be interested in being captain this year. Even if I’m not a captain, I’ll still feel that I will be a leader as a senior and one of the older players.”
Physical conditioning will be one of the biggest challenges if there is a fall season. COVID-19 has made the traditional methods of getting and staying in shape a little more difficult, and practices have to be arranged by proactive athletes, as opposed to coaches. Consequently, Michael knows that proper conditioning could be that much more important this year.
“Personally, I’ve been running a lot. I’ve been working out and going to the gym, running, and working out with my teammate Ryan Silva,” Michael says. “It’s been kind of hard. We’re doing some pickup practices where we tell everyone that can come to be at the field, bring some balls, and we’ll try to put something together.”
Michael puts a great deal of effort into his training. It’s something that Michael learned was necessary as a freshman, when he had difficulty going up against some of the bigger players in the Shoreline Conference.
“I’ve always been somewhat aggressive toward the ball, but freshman year, I weighed 135 pounds. I got pushed around more then, but I have that same mentality now. I go in for a ball and challenge people,” Michael says. “I went to the gym because I was thinking, ‘Dang, it doesn’t feel good getting pushed around.’ Anyone can tell you that. I was motivated to go to the weight room to lift with friends or lift by myself and just put in the work.”
Coach Fearon has seen Michael bulk up during the course of the last three seasons. Fearon knows that he can count on Michael to take on opponent’s top offensive threats and do so with aplomb.
“Michael came in as a freshman and started as a fullback. Last year, he played center defense. He’s always been physically equipped to play and, last year, he would mark the opposing team’s top forward,” says Fearon. “Michael is a steady player who reads the game well. He’s been one of the guys leading the younger kids. He used to defer to the seniors, but he’s really stepped into that leadership role.”
Michael is looking forward to potentially playing the 2020 season. Michael knows that the Warriors have a good chance to take a major step forward from last year, and he wants to see that goal through with his teammates.
“We have a lot of players who have improved a lot. Like Ryan Silva has really improved, and he’s going to be a big figure on the team. Jake Burdick should be a key player, as well, and, in terms of younger kids, Michael Kollmer is very good. I can see him being a leader in the future,” Michael says. “I mean, I know that everyone would love it if we do have a season. Everyone would enjoy it. We’re going to play at a high level of competition, but we’re going to have fun while doing it.”