Staff photo by Eric Lusk
Jared Grondin considers himself a rather strict disciplinarian but will take his hat off once in awhile to participate in drills with his players.
He raised some eyebrows when he told players that there would be no “getting a tan” during practice, and that shirts must not only be worn at all times but kept tucked in.
He likely caused a bit of grumbling during the first game against Phoenix Christian when he quashed talk of dinner plans after Sedona had taken a 3-0 lead and admonished players to stay focused on the field.
“I’m kind of strict disciplinarian,” Grondin said. “I’m really strict on getting the kids there on time, having a lot of fitness, having intense practices.
“It was kind of tough at first, especially for the seniors who had been with Cam (Capurso, former coach) their whole career. I came in with quite a few rules at first, but they have come around quite well.”
If Grondin is able to harness this veteran-laden squad to his style, Red Rock could be a force to be reckoned with in the region and during November’s state playoffs.
If that first game against Phoenix Christian is any indication, the Scorpion players are getting the message – they went on to score five more goals after Grondin put their supper plans on hold for an 8-0 win.
“It was a good start,” the coach said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Grondin has become a familiar last name in Verde Valley soccer. Jared’s mom, Loretta, coaches the Camp Verde High School girls team and has been a club level coach for most of a decade. His dad, Dave, is the coaching coordinator with the Verde Valley Soccer Club and one of most distinguished soccer refs in the Northern Arizona.
Jared’s younger sister, Brianna, still plays club soccer and played for Mingus Union last season.
Since graduating from Mingus in 1995, Jared has been a trainer and assistant coach in several places. He has worked off and on with Verde Valley club teams and was a trainer for the Fountain Hills Soccer Club for several years.
He helped coach at Redlands and spent last season as the JV coach at Highland High in Gilbert. Highland’s varsity coach, Tim Barmettler, once directed Camp Verde’s high school program before moving to the Phoenix area.
It was playing and learning under coaches like Tim Barmettler that helped Grondin develop his disciplinarian style. He also learned the value of physical fitness in a sport where there are no time outs and players may run three miles or more before the final whistle.
“I want each kid to play a full game – and more – if they had to,” he said. “This year, we’re doing a lot of speed and strength exercises. I like to build a team around working hard and playing feet-to-feet soccer.”
Most high school players have good speed, Grondin said. But most teams choose to play “boot ball” – kicking the ball up field and letting the quickest guys go get it. Grondin prefers “slowing it down” and passing through and around the defense.
“You work hard to get the ball, you might as well keep it,” he said.
Grondin has an enviable group of players to work with in his debut as a varsity head coach. Sedona’s lineup features 12 seniors, 11 of whom were on the roster last season when the Scorpions advanced to the Final Four. Red Rock lost in a shootout to eventual state runner-up Desert Christian.
Striker Sergio Toscano scored three goals in the ’02 opener against Phoenix Christian last week. Fellow striker Alex Vail added two nets. Billy Fitz, Brian Flores and Evan Martinez also scored in the first game.
Other seniors include Paul Hay (defender), Shawn McMannes (defender), Joe Ingersoll (defender/midfield), Shawn Neesley (midfield), Max Koepke (midfield/goalie), Toby Eck (striker) and Ryan Binzley (sweeper).
Junior midfielder Destan Dulaku, junior keeper Chris Watkins and sophomore defender/midfielder Chapin Fischer also played varsity last year. Junior midfielder Mike Sanders, sophomore defender Grayson Selby and freshmen Ryan Windham, John Quiros and John Krajnak round out the roster.
Koepke and Binzley are captains. Hay is an assistant captain.
“I have leadership all over the field,” Grondin said. “That is helping the whole team right now.”
As for the frequent chatter of Sedona being a favorite to win state? As coaches like the say, Grondin is just taking things one game at a time.
“As soon as I came in, everyone was yelling, ‘You’ve got to win state. Look at who you’ve got,’” he said. “It is a good situation. It gets me pumped up.
“A lot of the kids know their role. Some seniors are starting and some are not. I told them I think we’re a good team. We have definite possibilities.”
Red Rock will be in action at this weekend’s Chino Cup. The home opener is Sept. 17 against Precision High. The first meeting with local rival Camp Verde will be Oct. 1 at home.
Grondin and Cowboy coach Dave Miller are good friends thanks to their long-time Verde Valley soccer ties.
“I can’t wait,” Grondin said. “It’s going to be great. It will be a good match-up.”