Jake Malowitz, James Hickok’s Banquet Speeches

Here is what co-captain Jake Malowitz said at tonight’s Staples soccer banquet:

First, I want to thank our coaches Dan, Kurt, Tom and Rich. Without your constant belief and support it would have been impossible for us to achieve nearly as much as we did.

This was a group that was written off before the season even began. Nobody expected anything out of us. 2011 was the year the staples soccer dynasty was supposed to finish. Had it not been for this special group of guys that might have been the case.

All of the credit in the world should be given to this team and the character of individuals who made a difference.

It was evident throughout the season that Taylor McNair grew to be a third captain. Taylor single handedly kept us in games with his ruthless determination and leadership.

Switching out of the center midfield position is no easy task. However, when the coaches called on Tonz to play left back, he put the team above himself. Tonz played with the skill and fire at left back of somebody truly devoted to the team’s achievements not his own.

A mark of a great teammate is somebody who always gets the job done whenever called upon. That being said, I think everybody can agree that Aaron Liu was a great teammate. Every time Aaron was on the field he played with unmatched intelligence and calmness.

Whether it was Max Hoberman’s overtime-game winning goal against Manchester, Dylan Evans sparking our midfield with relentless work down the wing, Steve Smith running the show from the most difficult position on the field, Ben Root’s always solid play in the back, David Hoffman stepping up game after game, Terence scoring clutch goals, Will Meinke and Jay Kaplan working hard every minute they were on the field, or Kyle Hoberman’s toughness…much of our success was due to the often unnoticed leadership and hard work of the members of this team.

This was a group of guys who refused prove our critics right. We worked day after day during the offseason, pushing ourselves to improve, pushing ourselves to be better. Although we had set goals to win championships, there is no doubt that above all we worked hard for each other. This was not a team divided among seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen. This was a team that was one solid unit.

Before our New Canaan game, Tom told us that the most important thing we would take away from this season was the solid and unbreakable bond of being teammates with some of our best friends. He explained how we would carry this special relationship throughout our lives and let it resurface whenever we might cross paths in the future, well Tom must have understood this group perfectly.

There is no doubt that we will cherish each other and the memory of being teammates for a very long time. I can say with complete certainty that the friendships and relationships that we solidified through this program will last much longer than 80 minutes on a soccer field.

2011 captains James Hickok and Jake Malowitz. (Photo by Carl McNair)

And here is co-captain James Hickok’s speech:

I want to start off with a quick story that Dan told me during my post-season meeting. After one of the games this year MSG Varsity filmed an interview of me, and was supposed to broadcast it that night. But for some reason they did not air my interview that night. Hmm. Well, Dan let me know in my post-season meeting that my interview was literally incomprehensible. Most of the guys know that I “mumble” sometimes and make fun of me for it, but this was bad. Anyway, just letting everyone know that this speech is part of my road to recovery from the mumbles, since Dan has recommended I get a speech teacher and my dad wants me to get voice/singing lessons! So keep that in mind.

So many years players try to extract the meaning of Staples Soccer in their banquet speeches, and for me as a junior, I want to leave that to my co-captain Jake Malowitz. I am a pretty lucky guy right now, because it is so rare that you get a second opportunity to lead a team. For me to be able to look at what I did right and wrong over the past few months, then get right next year, is something that doesn’t happen very often. So, I want to first applaud Jake for doing such an excellent job this year. He always left everything on the field and I think we all know how much this team meant to him after we fell to Farmington. So thank you Jake for everything you’ve done for this team, and how you have been a role model for all future captains and myself.

I have learned so many lessons in my three years here, one of which is how to lead a team, and I will continue to learn from Staples Soccer. But my time here is not complete, so I will have to save that until next year.

But what I found the most humbling yet important about this year was the memories. And like I said my days here aren’t over, so I just want to talk about the team that I had so much fun with this year.

The year started looking like there weren’t going to be any memories. Losing 8 starters and not having our annual team-bonding trip, there were doubters. But the mood changed in pr- season. You could see that 3 years of anxiety had been building up in many of these seniors — and they all wanted to be on the field. So, I want to credit the seniors for fighting this year and blowing everyone’s mind when we returned to the FCIAC finals, and came literally millimeters away, thanks to the refs.

And there are so many things I will never forget: the exciting bus rides with live performances by Joe Greenwald and Tucker Rizzi, who somehow know the words to every song on planet Earth and by Tenacious D.

Pasta dinners playing hide and go seek with Tonsberg’s car around the neighborhood.

Seeing “Planet of the Apes” as a team, and never letting go of Cesar… not to mention acting like Cesar the ape during warm-ups at STA camp.

Also our “Meet the Wreckers” questionnaire. Who knew that Taylor was born with 12 toes, that Tucker is the Batman, or that Max hasn’t had a carb since 2000?

Trying to secretly incorporate words like xylophone, Hufflepuff, llama, sock -puppet, and ambiguous into our post-season meetings. So Dan, if you were confused by what we said in the meetings at any point, you know why.

And the best for last: that infamous game versus Greenwich. Now that it is months in the past, I think we all realized it was one of the worst decisions of our lives, but at the same time, it made winning that much better. To inform everyone, most the of the team, including myself, decided to go to NYC to see a concert by DeadMaus.. yes it is an appealing name.

Anyway, we ended up meeting the entire Greenwich boys soccer team at the concert, so I already knew it was going to be an interesting game. Dan reported on the website that we came out “playing like dead mice” after going down 2-0 in ten minutes. But in an anomaly of a game, we somehow came back and scored 3 goals. It still baffles me today how we did it. How a team that struggled to score even 1 goal each game all season, scored 3 goals against a great opponent. Some people said we should go to a concert before every game… but don’t get any ideas. But like I said, it makes winning that much better, and that memory I will take with me forever, as I am sure the team will too.

The list goes on, but somehow with all that fun these guys managed to destroy New Canaan in the FCIAC semi-finals (not to mention receive serious threats from the other team) and continue Staples’ reputation as one of the most hated teams in the state. And even though our first game against Greenwich was an anomaly, our second was not. We proved both that we were better than them with a 1-0 win, and that we were hated thanks to a great quote by a certain person on that Greenwich team, saying, “the better team lost today.” That is victory.

But I have also realized that our teams aren’t just given that reputation, we’ve earned it. Earned it in the sense that every year the guys from Westport work their butts off on and off the field to have a winning season. And I think all of the alumni here can agree that they also worked extremely hard in their time to be the best. Staples Soccer means that you work harder than any other team in the state, and I really think we did that this year.

Also, our team became so close-knit throughout the season too, and our Facebook group is a great example. Essentially, the team was talking 24/7 for four months. Whether it was inspirational speeches, funny videos, organizing pasta dinners or finding out if Ben Root was actually still alive, I looked over the posts from that group and miss every day of our season. But one speech stood out to me. The senior can remain anonymous, but he said:

LETS GO BOYS, seniors tomorrow could be our last ever game playing for staples, think about that, never playing in front of all those fans ever again, never being able to represent your school, and most importantly never being able to play soccer in a meaningful game with one another ever again. I am not ready to let that go, i will not let manchester come into our home and take that from us, i couldnt wish for a better team to have spent the last 3 months with, and i want u all to know that i will do what ever it takes to win tomorrow, lets do it for one another.

That exact quote perfectly describes the will-power of this senior class.

So… it is safe to saw that this team will once again go down in the record books as a successful team. The FCIAC finals was no easy feat, guys, and I am proud to be on this team, and playing for this program.

Lastly.. none of this would be possible without two groups of people: the parents and the coaches. I realize now how much work the parents have to do too, behind that scenes, after seeing my mom going crazy trying to organize this banquet. I realize that every parent contributes to every pasta dinner, and every game they are out there supporting us. So, a round of applause for the parents.

Finally: the coaches. It is hard to realize that our 4 coaches have any other job in the fall, because each of them spends so much time with the team. Rich came to almost every practice and game just to make sure we were injury-free, and remained that way. Not to mention how heel pumps and inch worms changed our world, but Rich dedicated so much of his time to us and we all thank him for that.

Next Kurt. Kurt is one of our soccer masterminds, who has played at the very highest level, and coaches ask him year after year… how did you do it? Next, Tom can be considered the backbone of the team at times, bringing incredible intensity when he plays in goal (because I know how much he wants to steal my spot in the starting 11) but also focusing the entire team at the most urgent times. Finally, Dan. Dan brings all of this together, all of us together, and is the man that keeps Staples Soccer running at high gear. His constant involvement and coaching ability helps every team reach their potential every year.

So- Thank you to the 2011 coaches, parents, and most importantly, the team. You guys all made this great year possible.

I want to end with this fantastic speech written by a fellow goalkeeper after our loss at Farmington:

And the fellowship… though eternally bound by friendship and love… was ended. Three months to the day since Daniel sent us on our long journey… we found ourselves looking upon a familiar sight. We were home. How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on… when in your heart you begin to understand… there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend… some hurts that go too deep… that have taken hold. Someone once told me their part in this tale would end… that each of us must come and go in the telling. You cannot always be torn in two. You will have to be one and whole for many years. You have so much to enjoy and to be and to do. Your part in the story will go on.


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