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Jennifer Merck has been a part of the North Haven soccer community throughout her life. Jennifer played in the North Haven Soccer Club while growing up, and she’s now a coach in that program, as well as at the middle school. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Merck )
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Jennifer Merck has come full circle as a member of the North Haven soccer family. Jennifer, who grew up playing in the North Haven Soccer Club, is currently a coach in the program.
“I’ve been coaching all levels throughout the town from U-10 up through U-12, U-14, and U-19, as well. It just seems to be something that I love to do,” Jennifer says. “I just stayed in North Haven. I was lucky enough to get a job here, and I’ve been here ever since.”
Jennifer graduated from North Haven High School in 2002, although she didn’t play for the Indians. However, Jennifer was determined to once again make soccer a part of her life, and so she got involved as both a coach and a referee. In the end, Jennifer found that she enjoyed life as a coach the most.
“I took a year or so off and realized there was something kind of missing inside of me, so I got into refereeing. I was certified for about 11 years and, although I loved reffing, I didn’t get the interaction with players I was looking for, so I started coaching the younger kids. From there, I found out I loved it and worked my way up in age levels,” says Jennifer. “I’ve done a lot of coaching clinics and professional development type stuff where I’ve gone and listened to other coaches to try to get as much out of it that I can from other people.”
John Parisella, the director of coaching for the North Haven Soccer Club, says that Jennifer has proved a valuable addition to the organization’s coaching staff.
“We wanted to bring in coaches from home. Jennifer was one of those and has been with us ever since. She was an assistant coach and now a head coach and is just a great teacher. Her teams are always prepared, and she always understands the game from start to finish, position by position. She’s done a nice job,” Parisella says. “She’s one of our more dedicated coaches. The kids love her, and she puts a good team on the field every year.”
Jennifer teaches math at North Haven Middle School, where she also coaches soccer. Jennifer likes working with the middle school players and preparing them for life in the high school ranks.
“I really love coaching the middle school age group of kids. I think it’s a time in their life where they’re starting to change and figure out who they are. I like helping them figure that out and to help them grow as young adults,” says Jennifer. “We’re trying to get them ready for high school, so I’m involved in a lot of fine-tuning of fundamental skills and learning the strategy behind the game of soccer. Not having those fundamentals that many do have can be unfortunately an injury issue, so to me, it’s extremely important that they’re ready for high school.”
Jennifer was primarily a defender and a goalkeeper during her playing days. Jennifer feels that her experience at both of those positions has been a blessing throughout her time as a coach.
“I’ve always been able to read the field really well growing up, which is why I was successful in those positions. It’s come in handy coaching, because I can see plays develop before they actually are there,” says Jennifer. “It definitely made the transition to coaching easier. Although I didn’t have maybe the knowledge of some of the other positions, I was able to learn about those positions more. Having been a goalie really helped, because I always knew where the other players are supposed to be.”
Jennifer feels happy to still have soccer as a big part of her life, and she plans on keeping it that way.
“It’s just a game I learned to love. I enjoy the competitive factor, and there’s always movement going on or something that needs to be done,” she says. “I like that I have the ability to teach the game.”
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