Prairie Ridge boys soccer coach JC Brown is a man who always tires to learn better ways to get the most out of his players. He chooses his words carefully before speaking and often does a lot of reflecting.
Last year, Brown was the team’s junior varsity coach and upon taking the reins this season, he flipped the program around into a formidable one. The Wolves advanced to a Class 2A regional final, where they lost to Grayslake Central, 2-1.
For his efforts, Brown has been named the Northwest Herald Boys Soccer Coach of the Year.
He coached the Wolves to a 13-7-2 record, an inverting of last year’s 7-13 record. He was able to do so by applying knowledge and information he soaked up through the years serving as a coach at lower levels and as a volunteer assistant at Cary-Grove.
“I took that time when I was serving elsewhere to absorb as much as I could,” he said. “And seeing what I liked and didn’t like, and I put that all into practice. I knew myself and my personality, and I made sure I know what kind of coach I want to be, and it ended up working.”
Brown took over a team that underperformed the year before, and he wanted to try to make this season a full team effort.
“Coming in looking at the season, I reflected quite a bit coming off a 7-13 season and asked, ‘How am I going to change this?’ ” Brown said. “I wanted to give a memorable end to the seniors’ careers, and the more I thought about it, it could have easily been the same type of season like last year.
“They don’t need a coach to be yelling at them all the time, they needed a coach to be positive. Always trying to positive, that was one of my biggest goals.”
The Wolves scored 51 goals this season, coming from nine players, a testament to Brown’s philosophy of true teamwork.
“They played the game the right way,” Johnsburg coach Rob Eastland said of Brown’s team. “I think he did a great job with them this season, and I don’t want to say they didn’t have any stars, but they sure got the job done as a collective team. That is one of the hardest things to accomplish is to get your players to not worry about personal statistics but to play for the good of a team, and that is what he did over there.”
Brown took it upon himself to do what is best for his players. If it means have a fun practice in the middle of a week, then so be it. He has the respect of his players, and they want to play for him.
“He’s great,” Prairie Ridge senior Nathan Berillo said. “He’s never too uptight, and he is always positive, even when we feel the pressure, or if we thought for a second we couldn’t get it done, he was there to pick us up. You never hear him screaming on the sidelines or anything.”
Brown said being named coach of the year was a credit to many others.
“This is truly an honor,” he said. “I was just surrounded by such great people and had some terrific captains this year, and assistant coach Andrew Stegenga was great. Not only just the team but the terrific parents this season. No one called to complain; all of the calls were positive. The athletic director is supporting me and asked what I needed, and the community too. So I think that a great coach has to be surrounded by a bunch of truly good people.”