Sydney, NS - Having covered CBU men's soccer's latest coaching addition in part one of this series, the focus now shifts to Assistant Coach Scott Clarke and Goalkeeping Coach Vernon O'Quinn, two proud Cape Bretoners who exemplify and embody what it means to be leaders in their community. Together, they have amassed over 20 years with the men's soccer program and during that time have guided the Capers to numerous AUS and U-Sports title wins and medals. These accolades, whilst not serving as their main motivation, will forever stand as testaments to the consistency, drive, and passion brought forward by two of Cape Breton's own.
Whether the banners and medals would have been possible without these anchors of stability is an interesting question and it is a question that Capers Head Coach Deano Morley does not shy away from. By highlighting the staff behind the trophies, the culture that precedes success, and the people who make it all possible, Morley remains consistent in his mission to examine and redefine what winning really means.
"I think the way that success is measured in sport is by wins or losses. If we were only winning in competition but we were failing in academics and in community involvement, then something is broken. I think we have built something really special and I want to draw attention to the people who make that possible, my assistant coaches. Really, they are the most important people in this."
Academic success and community involvement might not be the first thing on the mind of potential recruits but the sense of pride that permeates Cape Breton is something that Coach Clarke aims to instill in each and every player he works with. Describing the connection to his hometown, Clarke acknowledges that he takes "great pride in being a Cape Bretoner, our players are well aware of that."
"I remember my first trip to Nationals in 2015 at York. Our Consolation game was against the University of Toronto, a school that had a student body 60,000 more then CBU and a coaching staff that outnumbered ours by 6. I had a great chat with our guys in the warmup about Cape Breton Island. After a 3-0-win, Mark Stewart, Liverpool Eng, came over with a big hug and said 'not bad for a bunch of Capers, eh?' They realize quickly that they are playing for not just CBU but an entire island. They know the history of the people they represent where family, hard work, and pride are paramount. They are proud to leave here as Capers."
Alongside culture, pride is clearly a reoccurring theme within the CBU men's soccer program and Goalkeeping Coach Vernon O'Quinn understands its significance better than most. Since joining the program in 2003, O'Quinn has strived to create and uphold an aura of interconnectedness between the soccer team and the island they represent. O'Quinn, who also represented the Capers as a player, believes that each championship win is "reflective of every single Caper who poured their own heart and soul into this program."
"We remind our team often about the history of the program and who helped build it along the way. I feel every Caper, past and present, should feel that sense of pride and we light that atmosphere yearly. It means never taking for granted the privilege of wearing the Caper colours on gameday because you are representing the history of the program, the university, and our island itself. I equally take the same sense of pride to the field when I have the chance to coach youth. I feel I can help grow their love for the game simply by bringing dedication and determination while making fun the most important mandate."
Alongside their work with the CBU soccer program, both Clarke and O'Quinn remain heavily involved in their local community both through coaching and their altruistic choices of career. Having graciously fulfilled the role of academic success coach prior to the arrival of Brian Tierney, Coach Clarke displayed his invaluable skillset by nurturing a total of 23 Academic All-Canadians from 2017-2019. This achievement, whilst not as widely publicized as the numerous banners or medals, should undoubtedly be recognized in equal measure. Clarke believes that the key to these successes, both on and off the field, can be attributed to a willingness to listen and the ability to build trust with players.
"An assistant coach must be a good listener; they need to be loyal and trustworthy. Players need to know that they can come to me with anything – soccer, school and especially life-related issues. Knowing that I will do anything I can for them while keeping things private. You have to be loyal to the player, the coach, and the school."
So, where do these cultural cornerstones of trust, loyalty and community come from? And more importantly, how are they instilled? By surrounding himself with such passionate, caring, and talented staff for so many years, Coach Morley has been able to create and maintain a spine of stability without having to compromise on quality. And, as co-workers and coaches evolve into friends and family, the impetus now revolves around continuing to recruit players who fit this ethos. Summarizing this unique relationship between program, island and player Coach O'Quinn describes a passion and care that he believes is "unlike any other program in North America."
"We truly care about our players. We are coaches, yes, but we also take on multiple roles. We will do anything to help, and it boils down to genuine care and compassion. We help instill the love of Cape Breton along the way and that is very evident by the number of former players who now call Cape Breton their home while others have created some of their best memories here on our island."
Atlantic University Sport is considering a phased 'return-to-play' plan slated to materialize in the coming weeks. What is clear, regardless of what happens this season, is that Morley, Clarke, O'Quinn and Tierney will remain committed as ever to the players, the program, the university and the island they call home.