The latest guest on New England Soccer Journal’s “The Goal” podcast is Bridgton Academy soccer head coach Jim Hopkins.
Hopkins just wrapped up his fourth season at Bridgton and led the team to a record of 15-4-3, just missing the NEPSAC Class A playoffs.
He came to the one-year postgraduate school in Maine after spending three years as associate head soccer coach at his alma mater, the University of Southern Maine, where he was also a three-year captain for the soccer team from 1997-99.
Hopkins joined host Matt Langone to discuss his Bridgton program and how it has been able to find success in recent years. The interview was recorded before the NEPSAC playoff brackets were revealed this past weekend.
The full podcast can be accessed below and is available on all major platforms. If you enjoy it, please leave a rating and a review.
Here are some highlights from our discussion with Hopkins.
On playing so many games on the road:
Hopkins: “It’s pretty crazy. This year, with the amount of games — we’ll finish up with 22 at the end of the year — we’ve gone about 3,400-3,500 miles. I tell the kids we went to California and started coming back. Being up in Maine, a lot of programs can’t make it up here. So, if we want to play good competition, we have to go. I mean, we went to Albany for a Saturday-Sunday tournament, came back home, rested for a day, and then we went back out to play Northfield Mount Hermon on a Wednesday. Even if our local games are two hours away, we’re traveling.”
On the team culture:
Hopkins: “A lot of (the players) were starters and the best players on their (high school) team. And now they’re coming to a team that for the first time they might have to sit the bench, and not get that playing time or have to earn it at practice. The travel is sometimes a little bit too much, but I think it teaches the kids how to travel. … We really try to make this year as close to a college year as possible, so when they do leave here, they’re a 19-year-old freshman who is going to be that much better for the college coaches. I think that’s a feather in our hat.”
On what a college coach will get from a Bridgton Academy player:
Hopkins: “Our kind of motto is the year does make a difference for the individual — it’s a year for the kid, the individual soul-searching guy. It’s an all-boys school in midwestern Maine — not much going on up here. A great lake region. But the guys mature and they get a little bit hardened, and they’re all going to compete, because they have to. Every day I practice to find a starting spot, I don’t know if I’ve had the same starting lineup at all yet this year. I mean, obviously, some of it is pretty close, but guys are ready to go.”
On reliable locations to find players for the program:
Hopkins: “Massachusetts is a big one for us, and New Hampshire is. We had about seven Rhode Island guys during COVID-19, through my Bayside FC connections and Rhode Island connections. We dip into the Canadian market a little bit, too.”
On the success of the 2022 season:
Hopkins: “Our academics are over a 3.5, I think, for our team GPA. Wins and losses we’re doing really well, we’re battling, and if we don’t get the call on that Saturday (when NEPSAC brackets were released), obviously I’ll be really disappointed, because I think we’re one of the top eight teams. … There’s so much good competition in the NEPSAC. I think the overall view of all the coaches in NEPSAC is that they want their kids to get better and play at a high level. I think the more competition and the better the NEPSAC does, the better our kids are going to be. And in the long run, our guys are going to be successful, because they’re just good people.”
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