by Abe Asher
In the dog-days of the high school soccer season — late September, early October — we would do a half-field drill that pitted our offense against our defense going to goal.
It was usually my job to chase around Matt Sipowicz, Jon Dugoni, and Carl Lovestrand — one of the best central midfields in the state — by myself.
I wasn’t exactly an integral part of the drill. I couldn’t possibly get the ball, and after twenty or so minutes of being completely ignored, I’d be barely moving and on the verge of passing out when Justin Kerr would notice me and scream, “ABE! YOU’RE JOGGING!”
At which point I would collapse.
Kerr is leaving OES at the end of the year. After coaching soccer at the school since 1997 and teaching in the Middle School since 2011, he has taken a job in Orange County.
His new school wants him as a teacher, not as a soccer coach and dorm parent who teaches. Also, it’ll put him in Huntington, right on the beach. He couldn’t not take the job.
My two cents? It’s a good time for Kerr to go. He leaves with Hardister and Hatch, his assistant and athletic director, and at a time of considerable upheaval in the middle school. He goes out with the class of ’15, the best soccer class in school history, and as a back-to-back State Champion. It’s time to move on. There’s nothing left to accomplish here.
I marveled at his charisma and command of a room. Walking into our locker-room before a big game was like walking onto the set of Hoosiers or Miracle. I enjoyed his ability to freak out about everything. We won my first varsity match 4-3, and I’m pretty sure he lost about six quarts of blood in the process.
Kerr was the only coach I have ever had that made me run to a dictionary after practice to see what half the stuff he said to me meant. I loved how much he loved the stage. As we advanced in the state tournament, one of the things I most enjoyed was seeing what kind of verbosity Kerr could conjure in his pre-game speech.
His force of personality made him as a coach. He wasn’t the best tactically, but he was the program.
It was fun watching him crack up linesman in Spanish. Same wardrobe every game: Green OES stocking cap, green jacket from 2008, and shorts. It was fun watching how much our team meant to him. It was fun winning for him. He has his flaws, and there absolutely were bad moments, but he always had everyone’s best interests at heart.
David Rosenberg should absolutely be the next OES head coach, for like seventeen great reasons, but if I’m offered the job I’d have to seriously consider taking it. Simon Mehari would take over for me at the Dig and probably run it into the ground.
In all honesty, Kerr is better than what OES had him doing. I never had Kerr as a teacher, but I’m sure he’s good. I always heard good things about his current events class. Kerr’s immediate plan isn’t to be involved with soccer in California. I hope he returns to coaching. He loves it, he’s good at it, and he could have the challenge of building a team, club, or program again.
I’m happy I knew Kerr, happier still that I got to play for him, and happier still that he has a fantastic opportunity and is on his way to bigger, and, overall, more fulfilling things.
But whatever Justin Kerr does from now on, his legend at OES will never be forgotten.
Early picture of Kerr, as submitted by Aardvark Dig czar Kara Tambellini.