Thursday, August 1, 2013

Burke named Freeman Coach of the Year

from today's Waukesha Freeman - 

Soccer helps shape Burke’s life
Coach leads CMH girls to another state championship

Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA – Soccer has meant so much in John Burke’s life.

He’s been involved with the sport a good portion of his life, and it’s become a passion for the Catholic Memorial High School coach. He’s had quite a run of success, compiling more victories than any other coach in state history, and this spring brought the Crusaders their second straight WIAA Division 2 state championship – the team’s ninth state title during Burke’s tenure.

But the sport also has offered so much more to Burke. He’s helped the program achieve several academic honors, and he’s also helped implement a TOPSoccer program, which teaches the sport to children with special needs.

His work with TOPSoccer helped influence some big changes in Burke’s life.

“The most rewarding part of it is the TOPSoccer program the girls have supported over 10 years,” he said. “It’s the most important thing I do, and it’s made possible by all the kids.

“At the last awards ceremony, I told all the parents that they do so much every day to serve their children that in so many ways it gave my wife and I the courage to adopt a child from China
 with special needs. We would not have had the courage to do that without seeing the courage the parents of kids from TOPSoccer show every day.”

Burke’s on-field success, combined with his efforts off
 the field, has earned him The Freeman’s 2012-13 high school Coach of the Year award.

“It’s really unlike any other coaching experience I’ve ever had with Mr. Burke,” said Carina Krausert, a senior on
 this year’s undefeated state championship team. “He’s not just like a coach, he’s like a father figure to all us girls. He not only talks to us about soccer, but he teaches us about life. With him, it’s not just about soccer, it’s about building relationships.

“That’s why I love working with coach Burke.”

During the season, Burke’s coaching style changes from Day 1 to the last game of the season. At the beginning, he’s constantly teaching, tweaking and making sure players know what needs to be done.

But he may be one of the most silent coaches as the season nears an end.

“Early on in the season, I give them a lot of direction. I treat games early in the season as training sessions,” Burke said. “I’m coaching them throughout the game, letting them understand what the demands are.

“As we go through the season, I say less and less. At the state tournament, I said, ‘Now the game’s in your hands. I taught you everything you
 need to know. Don’t listen to the sidelines, just play.’ That allows them to play with great creativity and enjoyment.” 

It’s a strategy Burke takes from teaching English at Memorial.

“If a kid is taking a final exam, the teacher is not sitting in the next desk telling them what to do,” Burke said. “You let them take the final, let them express themselves.”

It’s a style the players have enjoyed over the years.

“Our practices all start in the classroom,” Krausert said. “He teaches us what’s really important, and by the end he likes watching us and seeing what we’ve learned.

“He’s a teacher at Catholic Memorial, and that’s what he does best. It’s nice as a player to be able to demonstrate what we’ve learned.”

Burke’s lessons go well beyond the field. Most of his players help out with the TOPSoccer program, and he teaches his players to be better people more than simply better soccer players.

“He thinks it’s important for us to work together as a team outside of soccer so we can build camaraderie,” Krausert said. “That’s why we do TOPS and other service-related activities. When we go to Hilton Head (S.C., for a series of early-season games), we do a service activity there.

“We need to be well-rounded at all times. In the classroom, we need to be on point. When we’re doing service work, we need to be on point. That’s what translates onto the soccer field.”

Burke has seen a lot of players come through Catholic Memorial, but he still lights up when he discusses his team’s off-the-field work.

“It’s the TOPSoccer part of it that really keeps me most connected, because it’s the most important thing I do, the most important thing my kids do,” Burke said. “It’s more important than the championships we win. If you ask any of our kids, that’s the most important thing we do in the Catholic Memorial program.”

Burke credits the many talented and responsible players who have come through his program for his coaching success.

“I’ve got great kids,” said Burke, whose daughter, Mo, was a freshman on the team this spring. “I have kids who are leaders, I have kids who are scholars and kids who really work harder than any other kids I’ve ever encountered. That work ethic perpetuates itself.

“My senior leaders this year were remarkable. From the very beginning they demonstrated what it took to achieve the level of expectations we had for this team. Our seniors were part of three state titles and an undefeated season this year.”


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