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Imagine having a new coach for a boys' soccer program who has been connected with the sport for years and brings a successful legacy that includes being a three-sport star at Guilford who's won a state championship. And when asked how he is going to turn around a club that finished 2011 with a 3-13 record, he responds with "keeping it simple." This is Jeffrey Sullivan's philosophy as he becomes the new head coach at East Haven.
"My main coaching philosophy is to keep it simple," says the former Haddam-Killingworth Middle School girls' soccer coach. "I tell my players that they need to just master the simple things correctly and competitively first. I make sure that they know how to pass and trap first. I tell them it is also about endurance and keeping themselves fit, such as getting enough sleep. I feel that when guys are tired and cranky, they may make a bad decision in a game."
The new pitch boss certainly knows how to win on the field as he was part of an Indians' state championship squad in 2000 while also being a wrestler and lacrosse player at Guilford before coaching youth soccer in town. After spending the last three years as the girls' JV soccer coach at Guilford, Jeffrey's philosophy is not as complicated as he doesn't have any long, motivational speeches or tactics. Instead, he tells his players that it is about mastering the simple essentials first, both mentally and physically, before taking the next steps to victory.
"To me, it is basically the 'a-ha' or motivating factor in coaching," says Jeffrey on the most rewarding part of being a coach. "It is seeing the kids working at things that they want and desire. It is the want and reward part of it, seeing the kids go after something and getting it."
In being the one who made the new hiring official, East Haven Athletic Director Mike Marone also appreciates the former Guilford star's résumé, plus his basic approach to the game he has built a solid reputation upon.
"Jeffrey came here with very high recommendations and he is an impressive individual," Marone says. "When I interviewed him, he came across as very knowledgeable. He comes from the Guilford soccer program, which is the best program in the state. He is a guy with the philosophy and mindset of mastering the simple things first. He is going to try to make the team more technically sound. Jeffrey is well-spoken, he carries himself well, and he will represent us well."
Jeffrey's simple philosophy also comes into play when reflecting on life lessons he has taken away from sports on each side of the athletic fence from being both a player and mentor. He has realized that you must appreciate everything that is given to you, no matter how complex or basic it is. Jeffrey knows that the Yellowjackets must take care of the simple and smart things the most to improve.
"For this season, we have to limit the number of goals we give up each game and just do the smart things most consistently," says Jeffrey, who credits former Guilford boys' and girls' soccer coach Bill Wallach for his success. "I have learned that you should appreciate the little things in life. Bill works with special education kids and it just showed me that you must not take things for granted in life."