Story by Cindy Burbage • Photos by Sheila Scott
John Brinson spent his childhood and adolescence mostly in Savannah and Tybee Island. He graduated from Sol C. Johnson High School, where he met his high school sweetheart and future bride, Heather. John and Heather have been married for eleven years and have two amazing sons, Conner (13 years old) and Miles (9 years old). After he finished nursing school and began work in the Emergency Department at Memorial Health, John and his family relocated from East Savannah to Pooler.
When his oldest son, Conner, came home from school one day with an interest in soccer, John admitted he was in unfamiliar territory. “He had a friend that played soccer at the YMCA and Conner wanted to play as well. After some futile attempts to push him toward baseball, a sport I actually knew, we agreed to register him for soccer at the Island’s YMCA Clay Culver was his first U8 coach.”
Coaching was not an idea John had ever toyed with before; it wasn’t until he saw firsthand, the impact coaches make on a young athlete. He reminisced, “I was blown away by Clay. His knowledge and passion for the game were second to none and he was tremendous with the children. I saw the value in what Clay was doing and was truly inspired. A couple of seasons later I agreed to stand in for Conner’s U10 coach that couldn’t make a couple of games. After that, I began my career at the Rec as an assistant coach to Jeffery Hubbard’s U13 team for which my oldest son, Conner, was the goalie. We had an amazing season and ended up champions of our division. I went out on my own the following season and the rest, as they say, is history. I coached several seasons at the Island’s YMCA before making the move to Pooler.”
Early on, John learned that coaching a team came with ups and downs. “As a coach to both of my sons, we have found many successes and won a lot of soccer games, but those first two seasons were tough. We were win-less our entire first season and didn’t get a win in my second season as a coach until the final regular season game. A 1-0 victory in which the opposing team’s goalie accidentally kicked the ball into his own goal. Looking back now, that seems like a silly thing to celebrate, but I didn’t stop smiling for a week,” the coach smilingly shared.
John began his coaching at the Pooler Recreation Department in the Spring of 2017 as an assistant coach for Jeffery Hubbard’s U13 team. His first season there proved to be incredible one. At just a glance, John, knew immediately he had found a new home for his family’s soccer life. He shared, “I remember walking into the “Rec” for the first time and being blown away by how awesome the fields and surrounding facilities were. No disrespect to the other guys, I have really fond memories from our time there, but at that point, my entire coaching career had been on an uneven, half dirt, sand spur covered field that lacked a proper “brick and mortar” bathroom. All the while, Pooler Rec had a full-size stadium?!”
Soccer is the only sport John has ever coached and he gave credit to his son, “Since Conner brought this beautiful game into our lives way back when, we have – as a family – turned into full blown soccer fanatics. Both kids play in the fall and both kids play in the spring. We travel to see Atlanta United and the US National Team play as often as we are able. A few years ago, I began playing in a Sunday league for adults that goes almost year-round. That doesn’t leave a ton of time for other sports. Life is usually “eat, sleep, soccer, repeat.” Over his coaching career, John has coached soccer U8, U10, U12 and U13; he is currently the head coach for his son Miles’ U10 soccer team. He is in good company, his oldest son, Conner is his assistant coach.
The current season has shown to be his most memorable on record. “The team is playing well. When we stay organized, get our passes away quickly, and move together in the final third, we are scoring a lot of goals and it’s a lot of fun to watch. My youngest, Miles, has always been a strong supporting player on every team he’s played, but he’s having a monster season. He’s really breaking away and establishing himself as a leader out there. As a coach, and more importantly as a father, I’m very proud of that. I think my friends and co-workers are tired of hearing me brag, honestly. At any rate, as of this article, we are 5 games into a 9-game season with a 5-0-0 record. So, we all have championship trophies on our mind,” Coach John proudly swanked.
Over the many soccer seasons, John has admitted they have been full of special players. Young athletes that pour their hearts and souls into the love of the game, all with hopes of winning. However, there is one particular player John will never forget. He warmly shared, “His name was Cole. If memory serves me correctly, he played on one of Conner’s U10 teams at the YMCA. Cole had an illness that required he wear braces on his legs. Running was difficult for Cole and, obviously, soccer requires quite a bit of running. From a coaching stand point, this presented a unique challenge that might have been more difficult if not for Cole’s extraordinary attitude. He showed up every day with a smile, unrelenting positivity, and ready to play the game. It took us a few weeks to find his niche, but once we placed him at center back – he was amazing. We kept him close to the goal he was lights out back there. His parents were the loudest ones on the sidelines cheering him on at every game. He had great support from his parents, but it was his own positivity and determination that got him to that point. As a coach, it was awesome to be a part of and to help facilitate that experience for Cole and his family.”
Inspiration can be found anywhere; mentoring our youth to become better is nothing short of spectacular. John Brinson found his inspiration in simply wanting to make a difference in his community. “We are teaching them soccer, but we are also teaching them hard work, problem solving, team work, physical fitness, leadership skills, sportsmanship, how to win with grace, and how to lose with grace. These skills are crucial to almost any aspect of life. Plus, I get to spend A LOT of quality time with my two sons; that is a pretty big plus!”