Some people write one Division III soccer banquet speech and they think, “that is enough Division III soccer banquet speeches.” Not me, though, so here is my second. This one was delivered to my teammates, coaches, and their families. If you happen to not be one of those people, apologies in advance for the jokes that won’t make sense to you. Transcript below.
“Friends, teammates, coaches, parents. Becky. I’d like to take a few minutes of your time to say a few thank yous, speak about my time here, and definitely NOT use this platform to tell jokes as a litmus test for my comedic ability in order to test whether or not I actually need to learn how to make a latte before I graduate.
I’ll only take five minutes of your time, and after four years here, I think I’ve earned that. I mean, that’s only about a minute per year, which, by the way, was coach’s original formula for how much to play me.
First off, I just want to say how truly beyond belief it is that Tufts has won the national championship in two of its last three seasons. And by “last” I don’t mean “most recent.” I mean “final,” since I’m pretty sure the whole Tufts program will be suspended indefinitely by the end of this speech.
For me, what makes this group’s success incredible is how little anyone expected it. If you don’t believe me, listen to this. Much like our Athletic Director John Morris, when I first got to Tufts I had a note and a bottle from President Anthony Monaco waiting for me. Here is that note.
Welcome to Tufts. I hope you have a good time here. With this note, you will find a $9 bottle of passionfruit-flavored vodka. Open at the occasion of your second national championship.
P.S. Unlike expensive champagne, this vodka is absolutely horrible.
P.P.S. Haha, just kidding, you will never win a national championship, haha. I mean, why would that happen, wasn’t this program like 2-9 when Coach Shapiro joined? Haha, enjoy your vodka.
I would have shared that bottle with all of you now, but I’m superstitious. Also, I’m a second-semester senior, so I drank it on the way over here.
I sort of understand why people expected little of us, because as a team, we were definitely unorthodox in the sense that we “weren’t very good.”
So, when we were lucky enough to get a tournament bid, I think we started out with low expectations. But then, four days before our first NCAA game, something incredible happened. Donald Trump won the presidential election. That sent an incredible message to our team, and that message was, “what?” I think, after that moment, we were all pretty confident the trophy was ours.
And now that we are the champions again, I don’t want to repeat the mistakes that those seniors made when we won in 2014. When they graduated, some of them said we’d never win a national championship again, that without our seniors, we had no chance. And yet, here we are. So I’d like to say to those underclassmen here today that are the future of our program, you truly are all completely screwed.
I mean, good luck winning again without your only all-american. And also the rest of the senior class, which was, ironically, all actually American.
If you feel perhaps like an underutilized piece of this team, know that we’ve all been there before. To prove that, I want to tell you briefly the stories of Zach Halliday and myself – two people who have often been referred to as “The Big Two” within this program. Zach was a walk-on at this program, and in his first year, he didn’t play right away. But he worked harder than any of us every day at practice, and halfway through the season, in an absolute battle at Hamilton, he earned his shot. He went on the field and immediately changed the game by scoring a straight red card. And after that day, he was a fixture in our midfield. So I just need to ask, is that what you wanted, coach? I really wish you would have let me know, because I feel like I definitely could have delivered that for you.
But moving on. My story was slightly different from Zach’s. When I first got to Tufts, my goal was “be NESCAC Rookie of the Year.” Two days into preseason I changed that goal to just “be a NESCAC Rookie.” Then, in the 2014 national championship game, I played a highly strategic role, in the sense that the footage I filmed probably led to many tactical coaching points.
And sure, at that point, I could have just transferred to a program that would have played me more – say, Maryland or Wakeforest or Stanford – but I stuck with these coaches, and these coaches stuck with me. Late in my junior year, I started starting.
That brings me to this year. There’s a lot that you might think a senior want to accomplish in his last season – win playing time, beat rival teams, make the playoffs– but throughout the whole of this year, I only had one goal. And that goal was: against Hamilton, a lefty first-timer on a cross from Kevin Halliday, it was a beauty. I’m proud to say the culmination of my rags-to-slightly-more-expensive-rags story came when division 3 soccer online forum legend Mr.Right said I did “well enough” on the wing. So, good luck filling those size 8 shoes, freshman wingers.
Anyway, the point, I think, is, you will grow, or in Braun’s case, shrink hopefully with time into your role here. And if, for any reason, that role doesn’t involve a lot of playing time, please don’t consider that failure. More than anything else, this program’s two championships show that any hardworking, loyal, dedicated teammate will never be thought to have failed.
And with that I’d like to seamlessly transition into some thank yous. I have gifts to give to Coach Connor Brown, Athletic Trainer Big Mike, and Coach Mark Waterman.
Connor, thanks for caring about this program enough to come back as a coach and pretend to get your masters. I think, of all the coaches, I would be quickest to call you my friend. Probably because you live in my basement. But also possibly because we look similar, so on grainy game feeds, you were frequently mistaken for me. I’m still coasting off the amazing goal that either you or I scored against Montclair State in the tournament last year. You have brought amazing energy to all of our games and practices, so thanks for all of your time here.
Big Mike. For those of you who don’t know, Big Mike’s last name is Buonopane. However, I’ve never actually heard him say that name aloud, and I’m not sure if he’d prefer an authentic Italian pronunciation or the full Mark Wahlberg pronunciation. So if it’s alright, I’ll just stick to “Big Mike.” Thanks for always helping us get safe and back out on the field, Big Mike. I’m not embellishing when I say that you are far and away the most capable athletic trainer I’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing. Thank you for not diagnosing whatever amount of concussions made Conor Coleman that way, and sincerely, thank you for all the work you’ve put into us.
And lastly, Mark Waterman. Thank you for coming to this program. When you arrived in 2015, hoping to join a team that would win another championship, we secretly relished how misguided your quest was. However, part of being a coach is vision, and you must have known that in two years time, you would be 20% of the top-ranked coaching staff in Division III. I know that your desk is probably filling up with D1 head coaching spots, but just know that as long as you stick around, we will be thrilled. It has been awesome getting to know you, and thank you for everything you’ve put into this program.
And thank to everyone else as well, not just for letting me speak at you for the last few minutes, but for everything you’ve given to and taken from me in the last four years. These have been my fondest memories and I hope to make more with all of you.