Boys Soccer – Briggs Steps Down as Freehold Twp. Boys Soccer Coach
Before his first day on the job as head boys soccer coach at his high school alma mater, Todd Briggs wrote down two goals for his program and he shared both with his team on Tuesday night.
First, he wanted the team to be competitive every year, which in his words meant "to have a chance to win every time we step on the field."
In 10 years Briggs' teams went 134-62-15, won two Shore Conference Tournament championships, two NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV titles, two Shore Conference division titles (one outright) and reached the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Tournaments in all 10 seasons.
Mission No. 1: Accomplished.
While his first goal was broad, his second goal left for even more ambiguity, but as his players sat together in a classroom Tuesday night at Freehold Township High School following a 2-1 loss to defending Group IV champion Washington Township until close to midnight, Briggs had no doubt that the program met his second goal as well.
Briggs told his players Tuesday night following their season-ending loss to the Minutemen that he would be stepping down as the head boys soccer coach at Freehold Township, which he made official with an announcement on Twitter on Wednesday. As he sat in the room with his players - 14 of which are seniors - he recalled the second goal he wrote down prior to his first season in the fall of 2006.
"I wrote it down and share it with them word-for-word," Briggs said. "It said, 'Create an atmosphere where players can learn and grow to value being a member of something rather than just being the something by themselves.'
"I sat there with those guys until almost midnight and if you could have been in that classroom and seen the emotion those guys shared after their season was over, you would see what that second goal was all about and that it really was accomplished."
Briggs is stepping down at age 35 coming off of a season in which the Patriots won the Class A North public division championship and their second NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV title. Briggs will remain the track and field coach in both the winter and the spring for the foreseeable future and will continue teaching social studies at the high school.
"I give a thousand percent in everything I do and the time required to do everything that is necessary to coach this sport is significant," Briggs said. "The time scouting is a big commitment and that's something I believe is crucial to the success of the program. Even in the offseason, if you can even call it that, you still have to do things to be competitive at the varsity level.
"I've missed some things as a result of the soccer program," said Briggs, who has three daughters age eight, six and three. "Coaching this sport in particular, you spend so much of your time as head coach that would have been spent doing other things and I just don't want to miss those things anymore. I’m not type to take the job for the paycheck and I couldn't see myself just scaling back my effort. I needed to do the best thing for my family and for the program, which was to let somebody else take over."
Briggs' successor will take over a program that loses 14 seniors, most of whom were a part of a Shore Conference Tournament championship team in 2014 and a state sectional championship team this year.
"I'm happy leaving at this particular moment, with everything the program has accomplished," Briggs said. "If there was a time to get out, with 14 seniors leaving the program and a new wave of players coming in, this is probably it. It gives the new coach a clean slate to build from and there's not the confusion of having 14 seniors on the team with a new coach."
Briggs recalled first considering stepping down after the Patriots won their first sectional title in 28 years in 2010, but decided to remain on and continue to push the program forward. In 2012, the current group of seniors entered the program as freshmen and upon meeting those players and seeing the early signs of what was to come from them, he decided that was the group he would go out with.
"We had our share of ups and downs early on," Briggs said. "The 2008 and 2010 seasons were great, but those were only two of the six years. So when these guys were freshmen - Mark Fasano, Nick Facendo, Jake Kennis and Mike Maltese - I pulled three of them aside and told them they were on varsity and told seven other freshmen they were going to jayvee with possibility of getting a call up. After seeing what we had, I thought to myself, 'This might be the last run with this group.'"
Briggs played soccer at Freehold Township and graduated from Rutgers with a major in political science. He teaches A.P. U.S. Government at Freehold Township and is pursuing his supervisor's certificate, which also factored into his decision to step down.
"It's another goal I had that I can’t chase the way I need to with the way things are," Briggs said. "It’s a feeling that I have to do it now. If I stayed in coaching, I'm worried in the future what that would mean to family relationships, so it just couldn't wait any longer."
Freehold Township will begin its search for a new head coach, with assistants Josh Mehl, Ryan Clark and Mike Tepedino as potential in-house candidates. Clark was an all-state player on Freehold Township's 2008 Class A North and Shore Conference Tournament championship team and went on to enjoy a standout career at Monmouth University.
"We have a good process with good people in place here, so I'm sure they will come up with good candidates and ultimately a good coach," Briggs said. "It's the same system that hired me, so I should be the first person to trust the process."