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Cameron Smith

One coach leads two New York girls soccer teams simultaneously

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Victor Popovsky is not the kind of man who rests on his own laurels. The successful architect of a proud girls soccer program at Fontbonne Hall (N.Y.) High School, Popovsky took the reins of the Sheepshead Bay (N.Y.) High School girls soccer program last year. There's one trick: He never walked away from Fontbonne to do so.

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Despite the fact that both schools field girls soccer teams in the fall, Popovsky has served as coach of two separate high school teams in New York simultaneously, leading Fontbonne through the Catholic High School Athletic Association and Sheepshead Bay in the Public School Athletic League. As Mark Lelinwalla first reported in the New York Daily News, Popovsky has been able to juggle the two programs despite the vastly different challenges each team presents. Here's what the coach told the Daily News about balancing responsibilities between the two teams:

"Fontbonne is my main team," said Popovsky, who teaches phys. Ed at P.S. 321 in Park Slope during the day. "I have a lot of talented players and they already knew how to play.

"With Sheepshead, I've had to work from the beginning, and build up the program from the core," he added. "It was about teaching a lot of fundamentals, so it's completely different players and it's two different worlds."

Amazingly, Popovsky has been incredibly successful at both schools. Fontbonne is currently in the midst of three straight Brooklyn/Queens championships, with the 7-0 Bonnies well on their way to a fourth in 2010. Using a number of experienced players from competitive travel programs, Popovsky has found ways to fine tune their skills to annually keep the team in striking distance of the Brooklyn/Queens title.

The Russian-born coach has faced significantly longer odds at Sheepshead Bay, where he showed up on campus in 2009 with the Sharks mired in a 36-game losing streak. After helping snap that streak last year, Popovsky's crew is suddenly in contention for the Brooklyn B-VII division title at 6-1-1 with four remaining games on its schedule, a spot in the playoffs already locked up.

Of course, the longer both of Popovsky's teams keep playing, the more likely it is they present their coach with the one situation he can't accomodate: A game for both teams on the same day, at the same time. Popovsky has avoided that nightmare scenario through a season and a half, but he admitted pondering the possibility before.

"That's a problem," the coach told the Daily News. "I'll probably have an assistant at one of the games."

When one team has a game, Popovsky always has an assistant coach the other team. Still, he's determined to lead as many practices and games for both programs as possible, and his players appreciate all his effort.

"I can't even imagine how it would be to balance between coaching two teams," Fontbonne senior Katie Henderson told the Daily News. "He manages his time so well and he's just very dedicated."

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