A person who coaches the team he once played for is not uncommon. A person that works and coaches in the same town he grew up in is far less common.
And for someone to work and coach in that same town for more than two decades is probably a rarity. Sam Barnes has made it work in Old Saybrook, literally, for the town police department and the high school boys soccer team.
“I’ve found a way to make it work each year,” said Barnes, now in his 21st season coaching the Rams. “I’m a community guy. I couldn’t have done it without the support of my bosses (first police chief Edmund Moscia, now Chief Michael Spera). They have both supported and encouraged me.”
Coach in one spot long enough and you will approach some milestones. Barnes, a 1984 Old Saybrook graduate, reached one last Thursday, achieving his 200th career victory in the Rams’ 4-0 win over Hale-Ray.
Barnes once felt he wouldn’t be around long enough to coach his own kids. Now he has both of his sons in the program: Matt, a junior, and Jonathan, a freshman.
“I think I’m harder on my own kids than anyone else,” Barnes said.
All three are a part of a 6-0-1 start to the season, better than Barnes thought it would be. The only tie was a scoreless one against Valley Regional.
Ashton Reina is a returning coaches all-state selection for the Rams. The senior forward had a hat trick in the win over Hale-Ray. Justin Phillips and Austin Hilger are the center-midfielders.
Barnes said his sweeperback, Ben Van Vliet, is “a great asset who takes control of the defense.” The defense has posted six shutouts thus far.
All told, Barnes had 51 kids come out for the program this season, the most ever during his tenure.
“There are other programs in the Shoreline (Conference) that cannot field a JV team,” he said.
Old Saybrook has almost a full week off before playing four games in a six-day stretch, including games against Eastern Connecticut Conference schools Norwich Free Academy (on the road Wednesday) and Bacon Academy (at home Saturday), last season’s Class M state finalist.
Barnes has had some very solid teams the last few years in the Shoreline. The team has been to the Class S final twice during his tenure, but not since 1998.
“Absolutely this team has all of the potential those (past successful) teams did. It’s a matter of gelling at the right time and putting things together,” Barnes said.