For the past four years, Tom Ehart has been Tonya Kolodziejski's soccer coach in some capacity.
It's a player-coach relationship that began at Brooklyn Park High with Ehart as an assistant during Kolodziejski's freshman and sophomore seasons. It lasted through two indoor seasons and continues with the newly formed Severna Park Alliance Under-19 club team, the 21-year-old Ehart's first head coaching position.
"He taught me a lot about being a defender and about not being timid," said Kolodziejski, 17, a two-time All-County defender who will be a senior at North County this fall. "If you have the willpower, most of the time you're going to get the ball. You just can't back off.His philosophy is what I've lived by on the field."
Ehart's threeyears of high school coaching experience includes two years as an informal assistant with Brooklyn Park's girls varsity mentor Mary Ann Schultz and last year with Jerry Tobin at St. Mary's.
He helped Shultz reverse an 0-12 record into a 9-2-1 ABC league county championship team and, in his first formal season as an assistant coach, helped St. Mary's finish as the Catholic League runner-up for the second straight season.
And now, as the coach of perhaps the county's most talented club team, boys or girls, Ehart is trying to put his experience and his own words into action.
"Sometimes, when you take over ateam this talented, the girls are afraid of you, and, of course, you're a little intimidated," said Ehart. "But I've gained a lot of confidence from working with JerryTobin. You have to make your first presentation -- that first big speech -- with authority. This team is a heckuva product, and I've got to try and sell it to the girls."
Theteam will be involved only in practices for the rest of the summer in preparation for the start of Washington Area Girls Soccer League inthe spring, but from the first day of tryouts when 32 solid players showed up, Ehart was talking commitment.
He inspires the players with slogans like, "show up for practice or don't show up at all." He keeps their play intense with statements like, "there's enough talentthat I can drop anyone from the lineupand not hurt the team."
"Asa result, no one took the tryouts for granted and it was really tough to pick the team," said Ehart, a former two-time All-County selection and 1988 Brooklyn Park graduate.
Egos were bruised after last Wednesday's final cuts yielded his 18-member roster but left Ehart with a team chock full of what looks like the elite of undergraduate talent from seven public and private schools.
Most of the Alliance members came from the Under-14 Severna Park Power, a team formerly coached by Wayne Sanchez, who now coaches the boys Under-19 Maryland Alliance. Kolodziejski, Trisha Monmaney and Mo McDonough, both from St. Mary's, and Severna Park's Cathi Hanson -- came from Tobin's Under-19 Severna Park Green Hornets.
Other team members are Erin Wylde, Stephanie Roberts, Shelley Seivert, Carrie Budzinski, Kristen Wilson andJessica Hines from Severna Park; Meredith Kennedy and Erin Hon from St. Mary's; Carrie Lycett and Melissa Goebel from Spalding; Amy Tolley and Michelle Salmon from Old Mill; Amy Adams (Broadneck) and DenisePerrone (Chesapeake).
"With this team, you know you can get away with doing fancy things because everyone's good enough to finish the play," said Lycett, 15, and one of the team's youngest members.
Kolodziejski, Hanson and Tolley are the only seniors on the squad, so Ehart's moving the youthful squad into the under-19 age bracket initially was viewed as both a bold and premature gesture.
"Some people's tongues dropped to the floor when that wasannounced, because I've got some girls playing five years over their age group," said Ehart, who took over the Power in the spring and led it to a 6-0-1 Division IV championship in the WAGS League.
"Wayne Sanchez made the coaching transition very easy, so this team can handle (the move). We want to be good enough to beat (the five-time Under-19 State Cup champion Columbia Crusaders) someday."
Neither McDonough, a 16-year-old junior, nor Salmon, 14, a sophomore, thinks the team's general youthfulness matters.
"It's a little different beingcoached by such a young person, but it's fun being one of the oldest players instead of one of the youngest," said McDonough. "This is going to be a very competitive team. We haven't really played anybody, but we look good and the chemistry is there in practice."
Said Salmon, "You just have so many great players around you that you know that someone's always goingto back you up. Plus, having other scorers like Mo takes a lot of pressure off of me. We've all known about each other or been friends all along, so now it's great to be playing together."