Pink Out, Tootsie Pops and a state title — Henry reflects on career at Broadalbin-Perth

Broadalbin-Perth coach Brian Henry celebrates his team’s win over Wheatley in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B title game on Nov. 20, 2011, in Middletown. (Leader-Herald file photo)

BROADALBIN — Five years ago on November 20, 2011 the Broadalbin-Perth boys soccer team rose above every Class B team in the state with a 1-0 victory over  Section VIII champion Wheatley to bring home a state championship.

Brian Henry coached that squad and now after 15 years as the coach and mentor of the Patriots, Henry has decided to retire.

“The decision to step away from soccer is 100 percent family,” Henry said. “I have two daughters, Paige and Shea. I want to make sure I am there for them. I don’t want to be that guy that misses out on things because you only get one shot at this. Maybe if it is in the cards, I will come back and coach one day, but I want to be there for them while they are growing up and doing the things they like to do. Being in Saratoga, it is tough for me to be here when they are there. I let the parents in the soccer program and the players know it is not a soccer decision, but a family decision.”

During his tenure as head coach from 2002-16, Henry amassed a record of 182-88-20, won five Foothills Council championships, two Section II Class B championships, two Class B Regional championships, made it to two state Final Fours and won the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B title in 2011.

The Broadalbin-Perth soccer program had enjoyed success prior to his taking over the head coaching reins, however Henry worked to create a different style of play for the Patriots.

“A lot of people have said that we have created a brand of soccer,” He explained. “Since I have taken it over the program has energized the community. There are certain things like when you hear that song Baba O’Riley playing, you know it is B-P soccer. Some of my alumni have said it is a way of life because it was such a part of their life that it is hard to ignore.”

The brand really didn’t hit full stride until his third season on the varsity sidelines.

“It really took off in 2004. I think that was our first winning season,” Henry said. “Those guys on that 2004 team, I felt like those were my guys. I had the modified team prior to taking over the varsity position and a lot of those guys were the ones I coached on modified. At that point, I really thought we turned the corner and essentially established our mark as to what we wanted to do.”

Even with a state championship, league titles and multiple honors from his coaching peers, Henry points to a non-soccer event that Broadalbin-Perth has become noted for.

“Over the past few months, I have been asked what has meant most to me about the soccer program,” he said. “The state championship, obviously, is special and the bonds that I have created with the kids and their families. But my pride and joy is the Pink Out. What it started off as a really small tribute to [former Broadalbin-Perth High School principal] Robin Blowers has manifested itself into something that I couldn’t even imagine with fireworks and a live band. We have raised $35,000 for the American Cancer Society and have received worldwide recognition from Abby Wambach in her tweets. It has just become so much more than that.

“Everybody in the community has taken ownership of it.  They are motivated and it has given a great opportunity to bring an awareness to the disease and know that we are raising money for a good cause. Robin always said it was a big festival with a sprinkling of soccer. That is really what it has become. It is an amazing event and even though I am walking away from the soccer program, the Pink Out is something I am going to continue to do and be involved in.”

Henry said he is not worried about a drop off in the brand as the team has worked hard to promote the sport with younger players.

“We make connections early on making them our ball boys and they come to the skills camp,” he said. “So we see them early on and they start to get involved in the soccer program early on so by the time they come to us, their transition into the modified, JV and varsity is seamless. They know the expectations and understand that the coaching staff is involved at all levels. They see us at the games, the practices and stuff.”

The involvement with the youth programs has translated into double-digit winning seasons and a 133-31-13 record over the past nine seasons, giving the impression that the Patriots are always reloading instead of rebuilding.

“I always feel like we have kids in the hopper ready for their opportunity to take advantage of what we have to offer,” Henry said. “It is a good thing. We have put together some really good soccer teams over the years. It is one of the hard things for me to walk away knowing we still have some really good soccer teams at the lower levels and some really good kids too. Even though I am stepping away, I know that the tradition of B-P soccer is going to keep going up and the level of play is only going to get better.”

However, it is not known if one tradition that has become a trademark for the coach during matches — Tootsie Pops.

“I am a very anxious guy and a very nervous guy,” Henry said with a laugh. “At times, I have been pretty mouthy and have voiced my opinion to the referees on occasion. So I thought that maybe having a Tootsie Pop in my mouth would keep me quiet for a little while. It became sort of a good luck charm, tradition and habit. After we won the state championship title, people were sending them to me in the mail and a lot of people in the stands were eating them. I really became known for that. It is funny because a couple of guys who have graduated and are playing with guys from other teams that they played against in high school and one of the first questions they are asked by those players is ‘What’s the deal with your coach and those Tootsie Pops?’ I always get a kick out of that. With the guys on the bench that are currently playing for me, the running story is that they can’t have them until they graduate. They feel like their soccer careers are complete when they get that lollipop from me. It is fun.”

Henry also has earned the respect of his players away from the pitch.

“One of the best things I can say is that my classroom door is always open to the soccer players and they know that,” he said. “A lot of the conversations I have with the players are not soccer related. I think that is one of the underlying things about being a coach. It is not all about just going out on the field and blowing a whistle, It is much more than that. They know we are there for them. It is a reciprocal respect. I am hard on the boys and they know that but they also know they represent not only their families, but the school, the soccer program and me. I take that very seriously and so do they.”

That respect showed when the team won the state championship team and the members of the 2009 team that reached the state Final Four were their biggest fans at the title game.

“That 2009 group set the tone for the 2011 team that won it,” Henry said. “When we made it to Middletown in the state finals almost the entire team was there from the 2009 team. I can remembers specifically after celebrating with the 2011 team I ran right over to the bleachers and jump up into their arms and let them know right then and there that we won that state championship because of the effort that they put in in 2009. That just goes to show you what the program is. They cared enough to come back and cheer us on.”

Henry expressed gratitude to everyone who has helped him along the way including former Gloversville High School coach Jim Flint, whom he played for and coached with and against.

“I was incredibly honored to have him as a coach and a mentor and then to coach against him was a really exciting moment in my career, especially early on because a lot of the soccer I learned was from him,” he said. “Before I came here to Broadalbin, I was an assistant for him. He really took me under his wing. I give him, Brian Bushen and guys like Pete Crotty in Queensbury who have done it for over 30 years a lot of credit. This is 20 years for coaching for me and 15 years as the varsity coaching and I am exhausted.”

He also appreciates the support he has received from his family.

“I owe a lot to my parents, Dave and Nancy, also,” Henry said. ”I have been playing and coaching for over 40 years and they have been with me for almost every game. For better or worse, they have opinions of how I played and how the team played when I was coaching. Throughout it all they are my biggest fans and I owe them so much. I wouldn’t be the person and the leader that I am without their guidance through the years. My wife, Jennifer, and daughters, Paige and Shea, have been very supportive and patient. They have certainly been my sounding board. They have listened to more stories and rants and complaints more than they care to remember or acknowledge. They have been fantastic through this whole thing. I can’t say enough about them.”

Henry admitted it really hasn’t fully hit him yet that he will not be back on the sidelines in the fall.

“It has hit me but I think when it is really going to weigh heavy on me is when I drive past the field and see they guys out there and I am not there,” he said. “Right now, it is still close enough to the end of the season that it is all fresh in my mind. When I drive by in the spring time and see another coach out there working with them, it will settle in.

I told the guys who are coming back that you are not going to see me on the sidelines, but I am still going to be involved behind the scenes to make sure the program is headed in the right direction. Even though there is going to be a new guy on the sidelines it is still going to be very much a part of me. There are definitely days where I am second guessing my decision, but I know it is the right decision. It is tough. Soccer has been such a part of my life for 30-plus years. It is a tough and abrupt way to move along to something different, but all good things come to an end or a new start.”

That new start includes the development of a fishing club in the school district.

“Fishing is my passion for sure. I will be doing more fishing now. Another coach, Mick Gottung and I started the fishing club. We both love it and we put it together last year knowing I was going to have time going forward. It is funny because it is Mr. Henry in the classroom and coach Henry on the soccer field. Those are two completely different individuals. So we will see how Mr. Henry the fisherman is when this all gets said and done.”

By Paul Wager

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