Boys’ basketball coach leads unbeaten girls’ soccer team
by Bryan Fonseca
Oct 24, 2017 | 13875 views | 1 1 comments | 176 176 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Claude Sharpe exemplifies new meaning to learning on the fly.

Or in this case, the pitch.

Sharpe has been the boys’ head basketball coach at Grand Street Campus since 2006, and notably reached the PSAL “A” Division quarterfinals in 2014 after amassing a 12-2 record in league play.

With the program’s previous head coach suspended for the season, Sharpe, who never played soccer outside of college intramurals, was approached to lead the girls in their fall 2017 campaign on short notice.

As in just a couple of weeks before the first game of the season started.

“I actually laughed because I was confused,” said coach Sharpe, whose Grand Street girls’ soccer club finished a perfect 12-0 in the Brooklyn A2 division this regular season. “I said ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ After that I was like ‘alright, I’ll do it.’

“I started working with them the last week in August,” he continued. “They were practicing with two magnificent assistant coaches that I have that are very knowledgeable about the sport. I had to play catch-up with them.”

With his lack of a soccer background, Sharpe summoned the one place with a curated selection of tutorials suitable to bestow knowledge upon novices in a variety of activities that is free to use for an unlimited amount of time: YouTube.

Being a basketball coach, Sharpe is familiar with conditioning, which is primarily what he handles on the Grand Street squad.

So he used the famed Internet site to learn other aspects of the game, and even started watching Major League Soccer.

“I did some research, looked up some YouTube stuff and I started watching MLS and getting some pointers because the Internet is really resourceful,” he said. “Whatever drills and stuff we do in practice, I got it off the Internet. And being that the girls are already skilled, they worked hard at the drills.”

Some of those videos helped Sharpe adopt game plans and learn basic rules and “futbol” terminology he hadn’t previously understood.

“It’s definitely helped,” said Sharpe of his YouTube endeavors. “I don’t want to fail, so my thing is I’m going to apply it and see how it works. Now they actually have me playing soccer, which is funny in itself, so I’m starting to understand it a little bit more.

“They say I’m good, but I know I’m not,” he adds with a laugh.

Though Sharpe isn’t as knowledgeable in the sport as his assistants or the girls, he insists that he’s certainly catching on from a strategic standpoint.

Because of the sudden change, he could sense that the girls were apprehensive of the new marriage at first, but that changed mid-season.

Of course, you don’t finish unbeaten without a talented group of players, and Grand Street is no exception. Sharpe doled out some credit where due, highlighting Karene Johnson, Stephanie Tenempaguay and Neja Cruz as some of the team’s key players.

“Karene, she’s one of our best players, um, she’s a striker, I’m supposed to say,” he said, poking fun at himself. “She’s very aggressive, she’s very patient with me as far as showing me different things. She’s a great leader.

“Stephanie’s a midfielder, another term!” he said. “She’s very good with passing, very outgoing. The captain, Neja, she’s very good at assisting and stuff like that. Basically the whole team is very welcoming. I can joke around with them, but then when it’s soccer time it’s serious. They’re focused.”

Despite the obvious challenges, Sharpe calls the transition to coaching the now undefeated girls’ team as one of the easiest of his coaching career. Despite making the playoffs every year since 2009, they have yet to win more than one playoff game.

Maybe this time, a PSAL city title may be in their future. Beyond that, coach Sharpe doesn’t know if balancing boys’ basketball and girls’ soccer will grow into a permanent task, but he might be up for it if it is.

“I’m not sure, but if they don’t get their coach back I would definitely be open to do it again next year,” he said.
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joan dantonio
October 24, 2017