The Juneau Soccer Club’s Capital City Strikers third-year coach Jeremy Gleason was named Alaska Youth Soccer Association’s coach of the year on Nov. 17th.
“To be part of a community organization like the Juneau Soccer Club, where parents help out, coaches are volunteers and people put in a significant amount of time has always been award enough,” Gleason said. “I just feel very blessed to be part of this community and the soccer community. I just feel very humbled and honored to have that recognition in an award.”
Gleason is in his third season coaching the Strikers, a team of 12- and 13-year-old boys.
Gleason led the Strikers to victory in the Alaska Airlines Cup in Anchorage in June, as well as a runner up finish in the State Cup tournament in Fairbanks in August. Those two tournaments are the largest in Alaska and among the largest youth soccer competitions in the Pacific Northwest.
“That puts a target on our backs,” Gleason said. “The team that we bring up to Anchorage again has to be quality and then with that title we hope it transfers onto the soccer field.”
Gleason began playing soccer in the third grade after moving from Angoon to Juneau during elementary school. Indoor and outdoor city parks and recreation leagues and the early formative years of the JSC led Gleason to his first coaching stint at age 14 and was instructing eight and nine year olds.
“I was a kid coaching kids,” Gleason said. “It was fun most definitely. It taught me, at a young age, to be a positive example for younger people. And on the administrative and parental side of things it taught be how to professionally communicate with parents from a young age, so they felt safe with their son or daughter working with me.”
As a Juneau-Douglas High School senior, Gleason was part of the the 2000 Crimson Bears team that played Colony High School for the first state championship. After leading 2-0 in the first half, Colony won with three goals in seven minutes in the second half. That was the inaugural Alaska State Athletic Association’s championship.
Gleason was selected to the all-tournament team along with teammates Robert Lossett and Justin Dorn. The Crimson Bears won the Academic trophy as well. Other teammates included Troy Choquette, Kaleb Froelich, Aaron Ver, John Rue, Travis Croteau, Zuriel Ebron, Florian Gruninger, Kyle Smith, Cal Craig, Luke Knowles and Robert Lossett.
“That game was a heartbreaker,” Gleason said. “But we were very lucky and very blessed to have reached that point.”
Gleason then played soccer at Division II Flagler University in St. Augustine, Fla.
“I had developed some skill but more than anything I had passion and intensity,” Gleason said. “I try to carry that into youth coaching. I try to never have a lack of passion or focus or intensity, no matter what age group, from age 5 to 16, I try to give the kids one hundred percent of my energy and time.”
After college, Gleason joined the Peace Corps and served in the Ukraine where he used soccer as a way to build relationships with Ukrainians outside of his normal duties.
“I scratched and clawed at college playing the game,” Gleason said. “It made me appreciate playing the game.”
After returning to Juneau, Gleason helped organize and continues to play and referee in the adult league. He is a volunteer assistant coach for JDHS, and a volunteer coach for the JSC and the CCCS team.
“The principles that Parks and Rec encourages and stands for, such as teamwork, fair play, leadership and gender equality are what I encourage and all sports should encourage,” Gleason said. “That was my foundation as my coaching moved forward and I attribute my love for coaching and volunteerism through parks and rec.”
Gleason is respected and beloved by his players and their families alike for many reasons.
Because Juneau club soccer teams have few opportunities for competitive games, Gleason actively organizes games between the team he coaches and boys and girls teams from other age groups within the club and with high school teams. This competition helps prepare them for Lower 48 tournament games as well as preparing them for experiences in soccer after high school.
Gleason also leads numerous skills sessions for various-aged boys and girls Juneau Soccer Club participants weeknights at the Dimond Park Field House.
Parents credit Gleason’s positive impact on all soccer players, not just in skill level improvement but also as developing young men.
“I want to stress how thankful I am for being in this community,” Gleason said. “The parents and the kids and the school district, everybody together, makes this a quality environment for young people to have an opportunity to play and enjoy themselves. It wouldn’t be possible without this town. And I would like to thank director of coaching Matt Dusenberry for giving me the opportunity to coach, his support and guidance and mentorship has been invaluable.”
Gleason also acknowledged the time, commitment and contributions of assistant coach Ben White.
Parents are impressed with his teachings of respect, fair play, hard work and the importance of being a good teammate. He is genuinely liked and trusted by both his players and their parents.
Gleason will often invite parents and their players to watch games on television involving the United States National Team and professional leagues in Europe and South America and uses the video game FIFA World Cup to teach skills and strategy. This involvement also gives perspective on the world-wide popularity of the game and inspires players to attempt skill sets performed by the world’s best players.
Gleason often preaches a healthy lifestyle and diet, a discussion that often ends with a team run.
“My advice to kids who want to go on and play soccer after high school is to value every practice you have,” Gleason said. “Appreciate the time you get to play on a consistant basis, because when it is gone you either are a coach or a soccer mom or soccer dad. That training with a team of guys or girls is something you are never going to get back, cherish that time together. And continue playing no matter what level you achieve. Just enjoy kicking the ball around.”
Gleason is also a certified teacher and works with youth in the Juneau School District who are in jeopardy of dropping out of high school. One of Gleason’s messages is that he was not a gifted athlete, but he listened to his coaches and put in the work required of them and went on to become a top defender at the college level.
Gleason would like to see the sport of soccer become more available to youth, especially the Native population statewide.
“For some of the issues that affect native Alaskans in our state, activity and sport is a big way of combating so many things,” Gleason said. “That is something in the future that I would really like to work on, whether through a grant or somehow. For a sport that is in the poorest countries in the world and is available to everyone, rich or poor, it is completely unacceptable that we have this lack of opportunity there for them. The Juneau Soccer Club is always looking for ways to reach different populations and make soccer available to all socioeconomic populations. Everybody can kick a ball, from the moment you walk as a baby, so everybody should have an equal quality opportunity of playing. Soccer should not be looked at s an elitist activity in our society.”