Friday, February 08, 2002

This coach helps make kids better

Friday, February 8, 2002
MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

John Curk's curriculum vitae is as simple as it gets: JOHN P. CURK PROFILE: Soccer coach He's been a soccer coach coming on 28 years now. He's one of those hundreds of coaches in many sports who seek to provide enjoyment and make life better for your kids. Like those hundreds, he toils in relative obscurity. While he may be more successful than many of his coaching counterparts, the creed he espouses has little to do with trophies and victories, even though he has plenty. "I just want the kids to be the best they can," he says. Curk is coach of the London United Spirit under-16 boys' soccer team. This year, they will be participating in the highly competitive and high-profile Ontario Youth Soccer League. It's the first time the team has competed at that level. All teams in the league, most of whom come from the Toronto area, had to win their league to be promoted. London United won the South Region Elite League last season. For Curk, the foray into the rarefied air of the OYSL is but one more challenge, one more step in a process that improves his kids as players and people. This is not a short-term involvement. Curk has had some of these kids on his team since they were five years old. Ten years with the same coach is a long time. Most have been with him for six or seven years. In that time they've won the South Region Elite League as well as the London and District Youth Soccer League and Challenge Cup three years in succession. They've won more than 20 championships and tournaments. In addition, Curk, a teacher at Regina Mundi College, has coached at various high schools since 1974. Included in that record are Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations gold, silver and bronze medals with John Paul II high school. "I guess you have to be a little bit nuts to hang in as long as I have," Curk said. "But you do it for the kids. You do it because you have an inner drive to excel. The job with these guys is not done yet. "My job is to take them to the highest level they can achieve." That doesn't mean they have to win. It only means they have to achieve their best. It's why Curk is looking forward to the jump to the elite league to really see the kind of stuff his kids have. "You can only sit on a rock for so long, then you have to get your feet wet," Curk said. Imagine 28 years of commitment, practices, weekend tournaments, 28 years of putting up with parents and the vagaries of youth. "Give me half an hour to an hour with a boy and I can tell you whether it's going to work," says Curk. "OK, that's simplistic. But I can't take 15 of them out of detention and turn them into something. You need a team with character, not a bunch of characters. I want them to make the right choices on and off the field. I believe kids will rise to your level of expectations." Curk isn't going to fool anyone with how he feels about the game and developing good kids. Nor does he want to fool anyone."That's the way it is,' he explains. "He's done so much for the sport and for the kids," says Ed Lauterbach, London United's president. "People swear by him . . . or at him." Curk laughs at the comment. "I don't ask anything of my kids I wouldn't do. I understand the need to be a little more flexible and I'm not the most flexible person I know. "I would practise seven days a week if I could. But you can't expect to be successful practising once or twice a week, half an hour, and showing up in a shirt and tie." Curk is warming up to the subject. "You've got to have a passion for it. Rain or shine we're there. If we have to run through a swamp, we will." It's been a long time along the sidelines for Curk. How much longer? "Until they tell me," he says. "I love the kids. "Besides, we haven't finished our job yet."


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