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Sweetapple coaching Nova Scotia soccer team at Canada Games


DARTMOUTH, N.S.  — Family commitments have slowed Mark Sweetapple down a tad bit when it comes to coaching soccer, but it won’t stop him from staying immersed in the game he dearly loves.

Coach Mark Sweetapple gives instruction to a Nova Scotia Canada Games women's soccer team player during an exhibition match in Florida in March.

The 39-year-old Corner Brook native will make the trek to the 2013 Canada Summer Games in Sherbrooke, Que. in August where he will be an assistant coach with the Nova Scotia women’s team coached by Cindy Tye — a former member of Canada’s women’s national team who asked him to come on board as an assistant coach.

It was an offer he couldn’t refuse despite his hectic schedule with the responsibilites that come with being married with an 18-month-old daughter (Vivian) and his wife Jennifer MacDonald of Baddeck, N.S. expected to deliver a second child in September.

“From a  coaching point of view it’s an opportunity to work with athletes who are very committed and want to sort of develop themselves to be the best they can be so it’s good to be around people like that,” Sweetapple said Thursday moments after getting home from the Cole Harbour District High School where he has been teaching for the past decade.

Sweetapple, who pulled up stakes for Nova Scotia in 2002, has been involved with coaching provincial soccer teams in Nova Scotia since leaving his native Corner Brook. He had served as the head coach of both male and female teams during his climb up the coaching ranks in a sport that his father Doug Sweetapple still works tirelessly for long after his retirement in Corner Brook. He served as head coach of the St. Mary’s Huskies women’s soccer team of the Atlantic University Sport for the past four years, but has decided to leave the position because of his family situation.

“I’ve given that up because it’s a very busy season,” he said of his coaching gig at St. Mary’s. “ It’s every day for three months and it’s just a time commitment thing with the family.”

Sweetapple represented Newfoundland and Labrador as a rising star at the Canada Summer Games in 1993 and he had a great experience.

He remembers how he put a lot of work into training for the Games years in advance and now he gets to see it all from a different perspective because he is a coach helping a new group of players strive to be their best on a national stage.

“You’re lucky when you’re sort of the right age for the Canada Games because it only comes along every four years,” he said.

As for how he feels Nova Scotia will stack up, Sweetappple expects them to give a good account of themselves and realizes an upset over some of the bigger provinces like British Columbia and Quebec will be required to pull off a major upset, but he likes what he’s seen from his players so far.

Recently, he said, the team played a bunch of exhibition games against provincial teams representing Atlantic Canada in Sherbrooke this summer.

His team managed to finish second overall and interesting enough it was Newfoundland and Labrador who claimed bragging rights. Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador battled to a scoreless 0-0 draw in their head-to-head matchup.

Over the past decade, Sweetapple has stared down the sidelines to see Newfoundland and Labrador as the formidable opponent on the Altantic Canada level so it won’t be the first time he has had to beat his own province to achieve success.

However, it’s something he looks forward to with great anticipation.

“It’s always a big game for me,” he said of games against his home province. “I always tell the players this is the one game I don’t want to lose.”

He still kicks the ball around in a local Masters soccer league for players over the age of 35 years and admits he will play until it’s clear he can’t keep up. And, he’s prepared to find time to coach some young gafffers down the road, especially if Vivian or her brother or sister decide to embrace the game like dad.

No matter how much the game has been a positive influence on his life, dad is going to let his children be the ones to decide if soccer is for them.

But Vivian is probably already sending dad a sign of what’s to come.

“Well, Vivian can kick a ball now,” he said with a light chuckle.

dkearsey@thewesternstar.com

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