Northville – Henry Klimes and nearly a dozen of his assistant coaches and former players were on hand earlier this month, overseeing tryouts for Northville High School’s soccer program.
Klimes, 54, is starting his 28th season as head coach at Northville and knows how to get things done, starting with the annual three days of tryouts prior to the season.
It’s tough to make cuts from the group of more than 100 kids trying to make 60 spots on the three teams – varsity, JV and freshmen. But Klimes and his staff keep their eyes on the action, take notes and then get together to talk at a local restaurant on what they witnessed during a camp that includes numerous drills on the three fields, ending up with a scrimmage.
Northville is coming off a 13-5-1 season that included a Kensington Lakes Activities Association (KLAA) championship. The Mustangs' home opener is Thursday at 7 p.m. against Canton.
“We have 10 or 11 guys with me so there’s a lot of eyes, because sometimes you don’t get to see everybody,” said Klimes, who has had the luxury of having Andy Cosenza as his varsity assistant coach the last 24 years.
“Bryan (Masi), my athletic director, wonders why I have the tryouts open to the parents. But my feeling is I want them to see what’s going on so they’ll know why their kid did or didn’t make the team. We have a lot of eyes on them, evaluating them, not just mine.”
Cosenza has enjoyed his time with Klimes and likes the process of evaluating the talent.
“We run them through different drills so everybody gets to see each and every player doing the same thing,” Cosenza said.
Still, in the end Klimes makes the final roster decisions.
“I love coaching here at Northville,” said Klimes, who was JV head coach at Detroit Catholic Central 30 years ago. “It’s more of like a hands-off type of approach (from administration). They let us run the ship the way we like to run it. I like the kids. I like the community. It’s been good. They have trust and faith in me and I try to give it back to them.
Senior Ryan Silberg knew the odds were against him making the team – unless Klimes was going to keep three goalkeepers. Silberg was cut his junior year, but wanted one more try of making the program.
“It’s definitely tough, especially coming here and not knowing how many goalies they’re going to keep,” said Silberg, who has a 3.87 grade-point average and put on a strong showing in Day 1 of the tryouts. “It’s always very nerve-wracking. It’s a huge program so obviously there’s going to be a ton of competition.
“My friends who go to other schools say there would be no competition at (their schools), like, ‘You’d definitely be the starting goalie,’ but here you’re one of eight going for the position.
“I gave it my all and that’s all you can do. I was cut last year, but soccer is my passion so I wanted to give it another shot. I know the odds are against me. I played a lot this summer and did my best and hope the coaches saw that.”
Unfortunately for Silberg, Klimes kept two goalkeepers and Silberg was cut again.
The two goalkeepers from last year’s KLAA title team that Klimes kept were senior Yianni Kanellopoulos and junior Robert Damron. Kanellopoulos earned the shutout Friday when Northville defeated Ann Arbor Pioneer 1-0 in the season opener and Damron was in goal Monday when Northville battled Novi – which eliminated Northville 1-0 in last year’s districts – to a scoreless tie.
Junior Jackson Gillingham, who moved with his family from Columbus, Ohio, was also among the players trying out to make the program.
“It’s a great group of players,” said Gillingham after the first day of tryouts. “There’s a lot of kids so unfortunately a lot of people will be cut.”
Gillingham was among the players who did get cut. However, Klimes gave uniforms to defenders Andy Swiecki and Sean Sullivan, along with midfielder Justin Troup, after cutting all three of them a year ago.
Tom Hennessy knows all about Klimes since he played for him on the JV at Catholic Central in the late 1980s, then played in a men’s league against him. Hennessy’s son, Devin, was trying out for the freshmen team at Northville.
“I enjoyed having him as a coach; Henry knows the game, knows what he’s doing,” said Hennessy, who works for Ford Motor Company and is the president of the Ford Soccer Club. “If you look around there’s either one or two assistants at every station that he has, so he has a good group of guys helping him out and then they can all calibrate, share their notes and feedback.
“In this area there are a lot of club teams so kids play year-round so it allows for kids to have a lot of talent when they come out.”
Devin Hennessy made the freshmen team.
And, one sophomore made the varsity, Steven Mitchell.
“Steven is a solid young player with solid speed and strength for a sophomore, good soccer skills and soccer IQ,” said Klimes. “He is the younger brother of an outstanding soccer family and I coached all of his older brothers – Johnathon, Matthew and Andrew.”