Sports

John Wedge is Kitsap Pumas’ man

(Above) Bainbridge Island resident John Wedge, who grew up in West Yorkshire, England, is the Kitsap Soccer Club’s first head coach. (Right) Wedge and Lee Christie, who is an assistant coach for West Sound FC, chat after Wedge was introduced at Kitsap Soccer Club headquarters Tuesday.   Jesse Beals/staff photos -
(Above) Bainbridge Island resident John Wedge, who grew up in West Yorkshire, England, is the Kitsap Soccer Club’s first head coach. (Right) Wedge and Lee Christie, who is an assistant coach for West Sound FC, chat after Wedge was introduced at Kitsap Soccer Club headquarters Tuesday. Jesse Beals/staff photos
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John Wedge believes soccer, such as a ballet or symphony, is aesthetically beautiful when it’s played in harmony.

A form of art, a slice of entertainment, a sliver of synchronicity between athlete and spectator, soccer, Wedge said, is bigger than wins and losses.

“There’s a reason Pelé calls it a ‘beautiful’ game,” Wedge said. “There’s beauty there and I would like the people of Kitsap to see that beauty and to see what’s possible, the excitement of a first-class team.”

Wedge will get his wish.

The Bainbridge Island resident, who was born in landlocked West Yorkshire, England, where he developed a passion for the game, was introduced Tuesday as the Kitsap Soccer Club’s first head coach.

He assumes the reigns of the not-yet-airborne Kitsap Pumas and the responsibility of piecing together a team that will strike a chord with fans and solidify Kitsap County as a soccer force.

“It’s my goal to produce a team that will play exciting, attractive soccer. So that when the fans leave the stadium, they will be hungry to come back for the next game,” Wedge said while being introduced at club headquarters in Bremerton. “Honestly, I can’t wait.”

There’s no time to wait.

The club will host an open tryout tomorrow at North Kitsap High School and a closed tryout — limited to invitees and those who make tomorrow’s cut — Feb. 21 at Silverdale Stadium. The roster will then be assembled, with the regular season beginning May 2.

“It will be a challenge, no doubt about that,” Wedge said. “We’ll have some hairy moments, I’m sure, and some fun ones ... As we go along, we’re going to make sure we have fun.”

From metropolis-England to an island in Washington state, Wedge has amassed impressive soccer credentials while pursuing “his one passion in life.”

He was a player-coach in England at the age of 23, immigrated to Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1979 when he was 29 years old, coached there for a year, then realized “Brooklyn wasn’t for me.”

Since 1980, Wedge has had stints at Federal Way High School, Shoreline Community College, where he was named Northwest Colleges Coach of the Year in 1982, and Evergreen State College in Olympia. He currently is the director of the Bainbridge Island Soccer Academy as well as a staff instructor with the Washington State Youth Soccer Association, a position he’s held since 1985.

“When you look at the credentials of the coaching staff we’ve assembled, it’s pretty impressive,” said Ben Pecora, the club’s executive director, of the hiring. “This is one of the most important days in the history of this franchise.”

Club owner Robin Waite, who interviewed six candidates for the position, said, in part, Wedge’s “ability to make adjustments on the fly” landed him the job.

“John’s more of a coach’s coach in some respects. He’s got a very, very good background, understands the game,” Waite said. “The key issue for us is somebody who can read the game ... John’s very good at that.”

Bremerton native Andrew Chapman, who graduated from Olympic High School in 1997, is Wedge’s assistant. Scotsman James Ritchie, who currently is in Europe scouting players, is the goalies coach as well the club’s director of youth development.

That leaves three men with less than four months to assemble an enticing product.

“I consider that one of my strengths — putting teams together,” Wedge said.

Influenced by both the Brazilian and Dutch style of play, Wedge said to expect a “blue collar” approach toward defense and “creativity” on offense. He called winning “important” but said “it’s how you win” that’s more important.

“We’re looking for talented players who are good technically but have speed. Our team should fly up and down the field because speed is so important in the modern game,” Wedge said. “Our players need to roll up their sleeves and compete every time they step on the field.”

The Pumas’ first home game is May 15 at Bremerton’s Memorial Stadium.

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