NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ — Craig Barclay, the New Providence High School boys soccer coach, went against his usual philosophy when went about choosing a captain for the 2020 season.

Barclay decided to select a junior, Franklin Markel, for the honor.

"It is not very often I name a junior as a captain, however Franklin's attitude, work ethic and passion convinced me to do so," Markel said. "Franklin's commitment and positive outlook inspires the team on a daily basis."

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Markel scored two goals in a recent 3-2 victory over Arthur L. Johnson High School. Barclay says the leadership and versatility Markel displays is invaluable to the Pioneers' program.

"I have had the pleasure of coaching and teaching Franklin for the past 3 years. Throughout this time I have watched him develop into a confident leader and an outstanding member of the New Providence community," Barclay said. "Every practice, game, video analysis session or in everyday school life, Franklin strives to be the best he can. He has the sort of personality that inspires others around him to want to do better, this matched with his excellent communication skills embodies everything we are trying to achieve at New Providence. 

"On the field, Franklin has found himself playing a number of different roles this season. I think Franklin has literally played every position on the field at some stage this season. This is testament to his positive attitude and willingness to do whatever is best for his teammates."

Markel is the TAPinto New Providence Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors Pioneer Athlete of the Week.

"Each game has presented us with unique challenges, and Franklin has always been there to step up and meet these head on," Barclay said. "In our game against Johnson, we were trailing 2-1 at halftime and were looking for a way to get ourselves back into the game. Franklin came up to me at halftime and asked if he could try playing forward because he thought he would be able to score against their defense. He knew we had to score and he wanted to take on that responsibility, so I agreed and moved him out of his defensive position to play in the forward role. Franklin went on to score two goals in the second half, and we won the game, 3-2. I was so proud of how he had handled himself in this game, not just for scoring the two goals, but how he confidently and calmly approached me at halftime, how we worked on a plan together and then how he expertly executed the game plan on the field. 

"It is not too often we see people take on that sort of responsibility so for that I give him the highest level of praise."

Earlier this week, Markel took time to respond to some questions from TAPinto New Providence.

Q: What are some of your team's goals and personal goals for this season?
A: As a team we wanted to show improvement from last year. We were a young team last season and definitely wanted to use that experience to fuel our success. We feel that we’re a program that should be competing for a conference and sectional title every year, and we wanted to get back to that level. Individually, I wanted to be more confident and reliable defensively. I made a lot of critical mistakes last season and really felt like I cleaned up my game over the summer.
 

Q: Have you seen your game change since your last year? 
A: I think the biggest change in my game has been mental. Last year I would often make a mistake and let it sit in my head all game and that would poorly affect my performance. This year I’ve done a much better job of looking to make the next play after a mistake and not letting the past influence my play.
 
Q: What has been the best advice you have received from a coach?
A: I remember my freshman year I just missed making the varsity team. Coach Barclay was very motivational in that process and made it clear numerous times that he really wanted me to work harder over the offseason. I think that boost was really crucial for me because it was the first time I’ve ever missed out on making a team I wanted to and that feeling really pushed me to work hard in the offseason and that work ethic made me a better person on and off the field. 
 

Q: What has been your most memorable game to date?
A: The Johnson game from this year. As a team we felt we didn’t deserve to be down at halftime so instead of waiting for fate to kick in we went and worked even harder to grab the win. Obviously scoring the two goals was exciting but for me it was more about our response from adversity and that whole game was very memorable to me.
 
Q: Are you aspiring to play soccer in college? Have you started to look at schools?
A: At this point I’m definitely looking to continue my athletics past high school. Whether it’s college soccer or club I definitely want to stay in shape and being on a team is a great way to make friends in college. I’m starting to get the ball rolling with my college search but haven’t really found a top school yet. 

Q: What do you like most about New Providence High School?
A: I really enjoy our commitment to athletics. Personally I always am checking tap into and nj.com to see how the other teams are doing and me and my friends like going to as many games as possible. I like that connection between athletes where everyone supports everyone and it’s a good environment.
 
Q: Do you have a favorite subject?
A: I personally like math. I, like everyone else, get very annoyed by the process sometimes but when you finally get it I think it can be really satisfying.

Q: Who is your favorite athlete?
A: My favorite athlete is Adam Pelech. He’s a lesser known defenseman for the New York Islanders. I love watching hockey and especially the Islanders and Pelech is a player who is really good defensively and does all the little things right. He might not be scoring goals and be super noticeable, but he’s a crucial part of that team and he’s someone I try to translate my game onto the soccer field with.
 
Q: Do you have a role model?
A: My father is always someone I really look up to. When I was younger he struggled with his eating and got a lot bigger than he wanted to be. I remember about five years ago we would go to the track and he would walk a lap or two and be exhausted after. Now he’s running every day and getting up to half marathons on the weekend and has lost a lot of weight. His transformation is always my reminder that hard work doesn’t pay off right away sometimes but by sticking with it in the long run it’s worth it.
 
Q: What do you like to do when you are not playing a sport?
A: When I’m not playing a sport I can’t seem to get away from athletics. I like to work out to pass time and clear my mind, but I’m also a huge believer in the occasional nap. I also like to cook and play video games when I have extra down time.

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The Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors Pioneer Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Joe Eberle Weichert Realtors located at 64 Main Street in Chatham.  Joe is a 25 year New Providence resident who is an active member of the New Providence community. Contact Joe anytime, whether it's to get started on helping you realize your real estate goals and dreams, or just to ask a question about the local market.  Joe can be reached at jeberle@weichert.com or call 908-868-4800