August 31, 2023 – Story and photos by Joshua Ross
For each of the past 24 years as head coach of the Hingham boys soccer team, Ken Carlin has made the playoffs. He’s hoping to go a perfect 25 for 25 to end his long, successful high school coaching career.
Carlin has decided to hang up the whistle and clipboard after this season. His entire high school coaching career has been at Hingham High School. He recorded his 300th win last season and if the playoff streak is kept alive, he will reach 500 games coached by the end of the season.
“25 years, 500 games, and 300+ wins seemed like a good place,” Carlin tells the Anchor. “All my kids and grandkids live out of state and my wife, god bless her, has put up with this for a really long time and it’s time to do more (family) stuff.”
Carlin, who still plays soccer in an adult league with the occasional pickle ball game thrown in, coached club soccer before deciding to take the high school plunge a quarter of a century ago. He didn’t come with too many expectations, but did have a few.
“Here what my expectations were,” recalls Carlin. “That I had them for 5 days (a week), I didn’t have to play anybody, that I didn’t have to listen to mom and dad that I didn’t play them, and that I could create a team that would play in a certain style.”
The style he implemented has worked. He described the old style as kids playing “with a hand-grenade.” They would kick it away as soon as they touched it.
“In the beginning, it was a different atmosphere than it is now,” he goes on to say. “We just had enough players, we didn’t cut anybody and we worked on giving them confidence that they can do something more deliberate with the ball. I said we are going to possess the ball and work it out of the back. We are going to make sure the other team doesn’t have the ball very much so they can’t score if they don’t have the ball.”
With all the games, players, and memories, it’s not surprising how he responds to what he is going to miss the most.
“The kids,” he says without any hesitation. “And molding them into looking good. I remember years ago telling my players, they would say ‘why are we doing this?’ And I said for some of you, your parents never played this game, never really watched this game, but even they understand when it looks good and when it looks ugly. I want them to say we play a game that’s fun to watch. That it’s interesting. And that’s always been what I try to do and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of it.”
Captains Mason Lemieux, Nick Oravitz, and Jacob Riker say the only pressure on them this year is to make it a memorable one for Carlin.
“The only pressure is to make him proud,” Oravitz says. “Cap-off a memorable career for him here.”
Lemieux adds that “he wants us to have a good year and a fun year and I feel like we can make it very memorable for him.”
Most of the players have played for him on both high school and club teams and has been a major part of their soccer careers.
“He always makes practices super competitive,” Riker explains. “Especially last year because we had so many kids we were able to do four teams making in competitive, really spirited and fun.”
This year’s team is returning only five players from last year. With 24 seniors graduating, it may seem like a total overhaul, but that’s not entirely the case. Carlin has built a program that produces highly competitive freshman and JV teams. Last year’s JV team did exceptionally well and many of those kids were eager to impress for the many open spots on this year’s team.
“We have a new group of people all competing to be on the team,” Carlin says describing the advantages of this year’s situation. “They are malleable because they want to please (the coaching staff). They are not coming back thinking we are one of the chosen few. In that way, you can do a lot of different things. They will change with what you ask them to change. There’s no resistance because they are all new and all fighting for spots.”
After a week plus of tryouts, Carlin has found his team for his final go-around. And he’ll be doing in a new division this year – Division II. This won’t change the schedule that much, with some out of league Division I opponents to “sharpen the sword” as Carlin puts it.
Riker agrees that the transition with so many new faces on varsity will go smoother than expected.
“Our JV team was really strong last year,” he says. “They work together well and they did really well so I’m not really too worried about it. I think so far we’ve been working the ball around really well because we have strong midfield. That’s our strong point on the team.”
Expectations are still high with this team for both coaches and players.
“This is year 25, we have never had a rebuilding year,” explains Carlin. “We put together a team and we expect to be good. When you say ‘rebuilding,’ it’s like an excuse to be not so good. I don’t buy it. I’ve never have bought and I’m not going to buy it now.”
Gibson is looking forward to the growth and maturity of the younger, inexperienced team while making the seniors’ and coach’s last year a memorable one.
When the ball officially drops on the new season next week, everyone will be focusing on one game at a time. But so far, the tradition seems to have continued with this year’s team with a strong core group of leaders mentoring the next generation of Harbormen through the program.
“What’s been really good about being a coach here is that there has inevitably been a really good group of guys who want to play. My whole thing is that this is a game, and we play the games to have fun, and this should be fun. Now some may not always play, but it should still be fun. At practice it should be fun for those that don’t get to play that much. That way of doing things has worked really well for me.”
And what will he consider a successful final season?
“You get a trophy when you make the semi-finals of the state tournament,” he says with a smile on his face. “I would like a few trophies.”