Kevin McMullen believes one of the objectives of any coach is to get his or her athletes to go beyond their potential.
He met that goal with many of his Broadneck boys soccer players this fall, including senior sweeper Jarett Smith, who anchored the Bruins' vaunted defense.
For their accomplishments this season, McMullen and Smith were chosen Anne Arundel County Sun Coach and Player of the Year, respectively.
McMullen closed his ninth season at Broadneck in impressive fashion, leading the Bruins to within one game of the 4A state championship.
Seemingly overmatched in the finals against a talent-laden Bowie team, Broadneck forced the game into overtime before finally succumbing, 2-1.
Smith, 17, was the primary reason the underdog Bruins stayed with Bowie until the end. His quick reflexes, powerful kicks and sound judgment helped stave off the nationally ranked Bulldogs, whose relentless pressure resulted in a 33-4 advantage in shots.
"He really reads the game well, and I think that was evident in the Bowie game," McMullen said. "With all the pressure they put on us, he was able to sit back and read what the situation was and get the ball off before it got through. That was one of the reasons he was so steady. He did that the entire year."
Senior keeper Sean Tettemer, who made 12 saves in the state final and was part of eight shutouts this season, said, "Jarett's been very consistent throughout the year, but I think he picked it up a little bit in that game.
"He's got great speed and great timing. He knows when to accelerate and go to the ball, and when to drop back."
Smith moves to forward when playing for the 19-and-under Maryland United club team. He says the change in positions worked to his advantage during the high school season.
"You have to be able to anticipate what's going to happen quickly, and from playing offense during club soccer, I know what to look for," Smith said. "I might see a guy going someplace, and I can anticipate where he's going and what his next move is. I think knowing what that is and knowing where to be at the right time helps a lot."
He always seems to be in the right spot, using his exceptional trapping and passing skills to thwart opposing rushes. But perhaps his greatest attribute during the middle of the season was his leadership.
Four consecutive ties, including three scoreless outcomes, left Broadneck with a 2-1-4 record. The team was in a rut, and McMullen called on Smith to keep the players in a positive frame of mind.
"Jarett is our steadiest player, and he does a tremendous job of leading by example," McMullen said. "He's the kind of player who's able to maintain his composure, and that was really evident in some of the high-pressure situations we were in.
"A lot of times when I had instructions I wanted to give the team -- sometimes, because of the nature of what's going on, it's really difficult for me to try and communicate something to the entire team when I'm on the sidelines -- I'd just tell Jarett, and Jarett was able to get that across.
He's a field general."
Smith, who received a scholarship offer from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, said he didn't feel any added pressure during the Bruins' rocky stretch.
"After the fourth tie we knew something had to change soon, because things weren't going our way," he said. "Maybe as a whole team we felt pressure, but as a group we handled it well. Individually, I had no problems. I just did what had to be done and dealt with whatever came."
What resulted were nine victories and the Bruins' third regional title under McMullen, who came to Broadneck when the school opened in 1982. He previously had coached at Brooklyn Park for four years, winning one regional championship. Overall, he's compiled a 116-54-10 record.
McMullen, 37, considers the past season his most gratifying and challenging.
"I knew going into the season that it was a very special group," he said. "I thought it was just a matter of time before we kicked it into gear. The big thing that happened when we were struggling is the kids did not panic and they did not get frustrated. They kept coming out to practice and working hard every day, absolutely giving me maximum efforts in every game we played.
"I had fabulous leadership this year, and I had a fantastic blend. I had a couple kids I rate as outstanding soccer players, and they blended in with some guys who are really outstanding athletes."
McMullen improved the mix during the scoring drought by switching junior Matt Weimer from fullback to striker, the position he held last season.
"I was trying out some different things in the preseason and early part of the year," he said. "I felt we would be a much stronger team if I had him in the back, and we were. But things did not work out as well as I had hoped, as far as our offensive abilities, so I had to make some adjustments and push him back up-field. That certainly was a key."
So was McMullen's calming influence throughout the season.
"Coach really never says anything negative, so that usually helps," forward Rich Aftoora said. "He just kept convincing us that we were going to do well. He kept our spirits up. He's a good leader and a good coach.
"He's not just a two-month-out-of-the-year soccer coach, either. He's always with us, helping us out when we need it, in the classroom and on the field."
Tettemer said, "It's obvious he likes us and we like him. It's just that easy. If he thinks we're slacking off, he'll tell us and we'll respect everything he has to say. He's not the type of guy who's going to go out there and scream at you. He's going to explain to you how he feels. That just makes it so much easier for us to respect him, to listen to what he says and not how he says it."