CHATHAM, NJ - Jameson Shi believes that what he's experienced on the soccer field at Chatham High will stay with him throughout his future.
"There are a lot of lessons I can take from soccer and apply it to the rest of my life. There have been ups and downs," the senior said. "One lesson is just making sure I always put my best foot forward no matter what I'm doing."
Cougar Nation got to see what Shi's "best foot forward" looks like last Friday when Chatham faced Sparta on "Cougar Night." Playing striker for just the second time this season, Shi scored three goals in the first half of Chatham's 6-1 win.
It could be argued that Shi's hat trick in one half of action was the most impressive performance by any Cougar athlete during "Cougar Weekend".
Jameson Shi is the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week.
"I always thought he had the potential to be a quality finisher for us," Chatham coach Mark Maka said. "Going back to his freshman year, I remember talking to the freshman coach that year about him maybe developing into a striker. The cool thing about his hat trick is that he scored with his left foot, his right foot and his head."
Normally a midfielder, the hat trick represented the first goals Shi scored this season. He had missed six games with an injury he suffered in the season opener and his teammates were happy to have him back on the field at full strength in late September.
"I honestly think he's our power in the middle of the field," senior teammate Marlon Kripzak said. "Now that he's playing up top, he brings the intensity - since we don't have Ian (Kagan) up there anymore. I think he's the perfect replacement for him. Every chance he had, he finished it.
"He's a very quiet player, but his performance shows his passion for soccer and the team; his commitment to the team, especially. We were missing that one person. His physicality really brings something to the team."
Senior teammate Kagan, whose injury prompted Shi's emergence at striker, knows how dedicated Shi is to the team.
"He never complains about anything," Kagan said. "Whatever he's asked to do, he does it, and he does it with a lot of effort. It says that he loves the team more than he loves himself. He puts the team first."
Cougar senior Patrick Conte has noticed that Shi's return coincided with increased intensity by the Chatham players on the field.
"He's definitely one of the hardest working guys on the team and people pick up on that and try to match his intensity," Conte said. "He just goes out there and tries to have some fun and it obviously works."
Jameson is the third Shi brother to play at Chatham, following in the footsteps of Will and Harrison, both defenders. His father, Tommy, shoots nearly every game, providing action photos that appear on TAPinto Chatham.
"Since I've been here, eight years now, I've always had a Shi on my team," Maka said. "He's the last one. Will was on that team that beat Delbarton. All three of them have been great players for us. It's just a great family. It's going to be sad for us when he's gone. They're just quality people."
Shi didn't just sit on the bench while he was recovering from his injury. He took notice of what was going on during the games.
"It got me thinking about what I would do differently in those situations and it helped my game seeing it from a different perspective," the 17-year-old said. "I got to see situations where I could make a better decision and help other people make better decisions, too."
Shi, who also is a member of the Chatham varsity basketball team, has been playing soccer since the third grade. He stuck with the sport, partly, because of his older brothers.
"Definitely seeing my brothers play helped me stay with it," he said. "It's a sport that's different from any other. It takes a different skill set because you're playing with your feet."
Shi remembers serving as a ballboy for the Chatham varsity when his brother Will's team made a postseason run and reached the state sectional final.
"I want to replicate something like that in my senior season," Shi said. "It was a special night to be able to play well as a senior in front of the whole town (on Cougar Night). I'm really more focused now on hopefully putting together a good state tournament run."
Jameson Shi heads in the chip from Cole Bixby for his second goal on Cougar Night
Shi completes his hat trick on Cougar Night off the restart by Brian Babovic
Editor's note: The Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week is sponsored by the John Hawk Agency. John and his team have been protecting local families and business owners for over 12 years. Call them at 973-635-9494 for a new auto, home, life and business insurance quote this week and if you mention the Hawk Allstate Chatham Athlete of the Week they will make a $20 contribution to the Chatham Booster Club! To learn more, visit the agency website.