SP soccer team players put questions into play
MORE SAN PEDRO
Depending on who you talk to, the San Pedro boys soccer team is either set on a path toward successfully capturing the city title or is mired in internal conflicts. According to players, shouting matches between teammates have been common this season, so have heated arguments between the coaching staff during games and practices.
Some of the arguments between players have escalated into small fights, they said.
Players lay the majority of the blame for the division on first- year head coach Paul Butterfield, his coaching style and the changes he has instituted since taking over the San Pedro soccer program.
“He’s a totally different coach than what we had before,” said goalkeeper Logan Adams about Butterfield. “He treats us like little kids, teaching us basic stuff. It feels like we’re being babied.”
Michael Martinez, a senior on the team, agreed and said Butterfield lacks control over the team.
Butterfield acknowledged that control and discipline have been issues with this year’s team and that a fight once broke out during practice, but maintains that only two to three players have been problematic.
He added that he and other coaches don’t argue, as some players allege, but he and his assistant coach get into spirited debates on strategy.
He also said these problems weren’t unusual for a team going through the large changes that he has imposed on the school’s soccer program.
Before the season began, the entire team tried to have Butterfield removed by signing and submitting a petition to school administrators.
The two-page document lists a number of grievances including being asked to come up with ways of increasing fan attendance and questioning Butterfield’s competence as a head coach.
“The Scholar-Athletes of San Pedro High School lacks confidence in the integrity of Butterfield for reasons that will not be published herein but are well-known amongst the undersigned,” the petition read.
“It is suffice to say the Scholar-Athletes of San Pedro High School feel they cannot look to Butterfield for leadership.”
Despite the request, Butterfield, who before leading the Pirates coached soccer at Dana Middle School and played in college for Humboldt State University, kept his job.
Kevin Kilpatrick, the previous San Pedro soccer coach, questioned the logic behind the petition.
“Have you ever played on a high school team where the players got to choose the coach?” asked Kilpatrick, now an assistant principal for a South Los Angeles middle school. “I didn’t, and I had coaches I couldn’t stand. However, I stuck with the teams and the coaches because I wanted to play.”
Kilpatrick added some of the players may want to remove Butterfield to bring back Giuseppe Cracchiolo, a popular assistant coach from last year who applied for the top job, but was denied by school administrators.
Bob Schatz, the athletic director for the high school, said he was not aware of any problems involving the soccer team.
“If these problems really exist, their first step should be to come talk to me about it,” he said.
With a majority of seniors and juniors, including all 11 starters from last season returning, this year’s Pirates squad is well- experienced. The team has made the playoffs each of the past five years.
Butterfield claimed six of his players have the physical skills to qualify for a Division I college soccer program, but with a record of 11-4-3, the team has twice as many losses as it tallied for all of last year’s 22-2 season.
Aside from changing the starting line-up for this year’s team, Butterfield also eliminated a popular seniority system where underclassmen did all of the grunt work for older players such as picking up loose balls and moving equipment.
“I have two to three players who are very difficult to control,” Butterfield said. “They challenge the coaches and really resented me at first, but it’s starting to change. We beat Gardena on (Jan. 26) and have gone undefeated in the conference.”
Since starting Marine League play, San Pedro has gone undefeated with a 7-0 streak.
Many players agreed that the winning streak has helped sooth relations between players and Butterfield.
“Things have started to change,” said David Diaz, another senior on the team. “It’s nothing that has changed with us or anything. It’s just we started to win. I think in sports, winning solves everything.”
But other players still had mixed feelings about the entire situation.
“I don’t know what will happen if we start losing again,” said Moses Velazquez, a leading scorer for the Pirates. “But there are a lot of players on the team that don’t like (Butterfield).”
Copyright Copley Press Inc. 2004
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