At North Salem High School, soccer is a family affair
North Salem High School varsity sports teams tend to be close-knit. A school that regularly graduates classes of fewer than 100 students is bound to field teams whose members are pretty familiar with one another. But this year’s varsity boys soccer team is particularly bonded–the team has three sets of brothers playing together.
Ruari and Sean Randall, Tom and Dillon Coughlan and George (Gee) and Nick Naber make up six of the 20 players on this year’s varsity soccer team.
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Nearly all of the boys have played since preschool, coming up through local camps and clinics such as coach Ron Hendrie’s summer camp here in North Salem and Chris Obi’s academy in Brewster. Several of the boys played premiere-level club soccer, including for Chelsea Piers Soccer Club, based in Stamford, Connecticut and FC Translyvania, based in Mt. Kisco. All of those collective experiences are now culminating in one truly memorable season playing for North Salem High School.
“Going back to this summer before the season started, we saw the writing on the wall with what might be able to happen with all these sibling duos,” said Richard Randall, Ruari and Sean’s dad. “We had a feeling that it could be fun and special.”
High school varsity teams are fielded based on the available talent pool of students in grades 9-12, as opposed to club teams that are primarily organized by birth year. The Randall and the Coughlan brothers, who are separated from their siblings by at least a couple years, spent much of their childhoods playing in the same club program as their brother, but almost never for the same team.
“The last time we played soccer together was in 2014, in 1st and 2nd grade AYSO Soccer for North Salem,” said Tom. For Dillon, having his older brother as a teammate has made it easier to work together on the field. “We know each other’s abilities,” he said.
Jackie Murphy-Coughlan, Tom and Dillon’s mom, said she feels a great sense of pride seeing her boys playing together. “After over 10 years of travel soccer programs, which has included North Salem, FC Transylvania and FC Somers, it’s great to have them both home again representing North Salem High School,” she said. “Recently they both scored header goals in the away game against Pawling, back to back!”
Theresa Randall, Ruari and Sean’s mother, has found this year to be particularly meaningful, seeing her senior and freshman sons playing together. “Ruari is one of the captains of the team this year, so to have a senior captain and a freshman on varsity, it’s been pretty special,” she said. On Senior Day, which coincided with Homecoming, Randall found herself beaming with pride seeing her sons, who were playing for her alma mater (Randall graduated from NSHS in 1993), help their team shut out Putnam Valley 4-0.
Nancy and Sam Naber are parents to twins Gee and Nick, who round out the team’s sibling sets. “We love watching the boys play together,” Nancy said. “Gee and Nick have a very strong bond since they are not only brothers but twins as well. They are always looking out for each other, on and off the field.”
All of the brothers agreed that being related to a teammate likely gives them an advantage on the field. “You know each other’s tendencies and you can adapt to that easier,” Sean said. “We have good chemistry and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Gee added.
“Brothers have a bond that is different and more unique than that of most friends,”Tom said. “They watch one another grow, they support one another, and learn from one another, by each other’s sides.”
Nick agreed, and put it simply: “I love my brother. He is my best friend and he will always have my back.”
Coach Ron Hendrie said that he has “really felt an impact on the team dynamics,” having so many siblings on the squad this year. While the team makeup has been a net positive, he did acknowledge that siblings can have their own way of relating with one another. “Once in a while I’ve noticed that siblings can be harder on each other and more forthright with their comments and criticisms toward one another, but we haven’t had any fights break out,” he said with a laugh.
The boys’ parents agreed that times when one sibling has a better game than the other can be tricky to navigate. “We’ve had games where somebody did okay or somebody made a mistake so you’re literally trying to have two different types of conversations,” Richard Randall said. “You hope to find a way to cover all of those things without rubbing salt in those wounds. You’re always navigating that scenario.”
When those scenarios inevitably arise, Nancy Naber said that she and her husband “have always been honest with them and try not to sugarcoat it. We talk about what they could have done differently and then move on.”
For these North Salem families, this year’s season is a bittersweet culmination of so many years of hard work, putting in the hours on so many soccer fields all throughout the region. Neither the parents nor the brothers are taking any of it for granted; they know how unique this season is. And when they take the field this Saturday for the first round of Sectional playoffs versus Pleasantville, the boys will draw on their brotherly bonds to ignite the team.
“They’re typical brothers; sometimes they’re getting along really good and sometimes they might not be,” Theresa Randall said. “But when they walk on that field, they’ve got each other’s backs no matter what.”
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