SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – A decade ago, the Empire State Games were quite an experience for Lakeland coach Tim Hourahan, who won a gold medal.
“The summer of 2010, I took over the Hudson Valley team in the Empire State Games,” said Hourahan, a 1996 Somers High School graduate. “Many of my Lakeland players had played in this massive event every summer during the previous years, and when the opportunity arose that I could coach the team, I jumped on it. Coach [Sharon] Sarsen (Lakeland field hockey), was a major factor in helping me get started in the program, and really gave me some great advice on how to handle the preparation leading up to the games.”
Up in Buffalo, Hudson Valley advanced to the gold-medal game, after beating Long island (4-2), Central New York (4-3), and Western New York (2-0).
“This matched us up against New York City in the gold-medal game which, we did win, 1-0,” Hourahan said. “I can still see it clear as day, 10 years later. It was a ball served in from Christian Dominguez (Suffern) and finished by Pat Noonan of FDR (Section 9). With it being with only five minutes left in the game, it was absolute pandemonium on the sideline and on the field, and to this day is one of my one of my favorites moments as a coach. Watching the boys celebrate was just an amazing thing to watch.”
Hourahan was the Hudson Valley head coach, with his assistant being Tim Gavan.
“At the time I had been doing a bit of O.D.P. training (Olympic Development Program) with Coach Gavin, and he was a soccer coach at Albertus Magnus in 2010,” Hourahan said. “But this relationship, from that experience, has really grown, and he is now an AD at Magnus and someone who I talk to regularly about soccer and high-school sports.”
The team had 16 players, 13 of them from either Section 1 or Section 9, including Mahopac’s Jesse Chan and Hendrick Hudson’s Jose Bustamante.
“To be honest, the Hudson Valley Region has been loaded with talent, for a long time now,” Hourahan said. “This has become very evident over the past decade with the success of Section 1 teams in the state tournament and also the college ID camp that I have been running over the previous three years, and attracting 40-50 coaches from all over the northeast to attend.”
When Hourahan coached the Hudson Valley squad in 2010, he was the first high-school soccer coach to coach that team in more than a decade.
“The previous head coaches had all been guys on the club side of things, and they were not just drawing from a big enough pool,” Hourahan said. “When I brought in other high-school coaches to help run tryouts and run training sessions, it just opened up the player pool, and picking 16 guys from nearly 100 who tried out, there was just always going to be enough talent to be very successful in that tournament.”
Unfortunately, 2010 was the last year for the summer version of the games.
“The funds were no longer there to keep running this Olympic-styled event the way they had,” Hourahan said. “Athletes were given free room and board in college dorms, free food on campus, as well as transportation to the Empire State Games. Athletes did not have to pay at all to participate, outside of a $10 tryout fee, and I don’t think you will ever see something like that again in the crazy world of youth sports and the cost associated with it.”
That 2010 roster had kids who went on to play high level Division 1, 2 and 3 soccer, and one player who had been playing semi-professional with the Kingston Stockade.
“There is now another player from Rye Neck, Ivan Rodriguez, who was named Section 1 Small Schools Player of the Year, and is now back coaching high-school soccer at Rye Neck, and that is great to see,” Hourahan said. “Overall, it was an amazing experience, one that I am so grateful to have had and, more importantly, a memory I will not forget.”