The start of a new sports year at the regional high school often brings new faces to the coaching staff. But in the case of the head soccer coaches, the new faces are familiar.
Esteban Aranzabe will take over as head coach for the boys team this fall, while the girls team will be led by Rocco Bellebuono.
Both men are well known as coaches and leaders in the Island youth soccer program, which began an academy-style development system five years ago. The program focuses on creating skill bridges among different levels of soccer while ensuring that all players within a given level have the same instruction.
Mr. Bellbuono is vice president of Martha’s Vineyard Youth Soccer and a seasoned recreational and travel team coach. Mr. Aranzabe has been coaching the game for 25 years, and led the junior varsity soccer team at the high school three years ago. Of the 22 players on the varsity high school team, 14 were on a travel team he coached that recently won the Massachusetts state tournament. Many in that group have been playing soccer together since they were 11.
A similar storyline unfolds on the girls’ side. Mr. Bellebuono began coaching the under-14 girls’ travel team two years ago. Players from that team are now sophomores at the high school.
Mr. Bellebuono is also an assistant coach with the Massachusetts Olympic Development Program.
High school athletic director Mark McCarthy said he is pleased with the two selections, which are made by an independent committee. “I think we have very good coaches that are dedicated to the kids and to soccer on the Island,” Mr. McCarthy said.
Mr. Aranzabe said one of his priorities is creating a unified program for varsity and junior varsity. The two squads practice together and go through the exact same drills.
That way, he said, the junior varsity players will be “ready to step up at any moment.”
Joining Mr. Aranzabe as assistant coach is Alex Poole, a graduate of the regional high school and four-year starter for the Elmira College soccer team. Matey Mateev returns as junior varsity boys’ coach, and Tom Rooney takes over as junior varsity girls’ coach.
A new hire for the entire soccer program is goalie coach Ryan White, who comes out of the University of North Carolina and will work with both the boys' and girls' teams.
“Both coaches felt that it was a position that would be beneficial,” Mr. McCarthy said.
Also this year the soccer program has a single booster club — two separate clubs joined forces before the season.
Scrimmages and preseason play have already begun; the regular season begins this week.