PHOENIXVILLE -- With a focus on hard work and an intensive commitment to the sport, Jason Short feels ready to take on the challenge of the head coaching job in girls soccer at Phoenixville Area High School.
Short played boys soccer for the Phantoms before graduating from the high school in 1990. Since then the Delaware Valley College graduate has been teaching seventh grade science at Phoenixville Area Middle School for 11 years, starting with the fall of 2008. He directed the Phoenixville girls soccer program at the middle school for nine years before moving up to the high school level as an assistant to Mike Koch last fall.
Following Koch's resignation, Short has been approved as the successor for the position. Fall sports practice officially starts Monday, Aug. 11, at area schools for the 2008-09 school year.
Short, 36, grew up on Phoenixville's North Side. He was a soccer player and wrestler at Phoenixville. He also wrestled
his freshman year at Delaware Valley and also took up football briefly.
"Then I caught the bug again (to coach soccer)," Short said during an interview Wednesday afternoon. "I was a teacher with Chad Sindaco and we were teammates at Phoenixville. We coached together before he moved on."
Short's advancement is not a real surprise. Koch and he had discussed the possibility of Short moving up from the middle school to take over the team if Koch did indeed step aside.
"We talked for a number of years that I might eventually step in if things worked out," Short said. "I have a good relationship with (athletic director) Ray Jenkins. He knows how passionate I am about the job and how hard I have worked for eight or nine years."
Short has had a close working relationship with the Phoenixville Area Soccer Club (PASC) as a vital feeder program for the middle school and senior high school squads. He also wants to continue to have close dealings with middle school coach Kyle Worrell.
"We worked together for seven years and operate the same way, open-minded," Short said. "He is also passionate and wants to learn. Another thing is that he is also a seventh grade science teacher."
Short figures that if all the components interact and work together, the entire girls soccer program will benefit and be more successful.
Koch's program expanded as the Phantoms improved with school record-setting scorer and Division I player Ashley Habbel, who is now a starting forward at the University of Pittsburgh; and numerous other solid players who functioned well as a group. Short coached the same contingent at the middle school level and saw the players looming as top prospects for the senior high school team. Those Phantoms actually achieved their goal of a first-ever District 1 Class AAA playoff berth and actually pulled off an upset of Bishop Shanahan in the first round.
"That was a special group," Short said. "They did everything. They deserve credit. They really pushed me to get better with my knowledge as coaches. I had courses and did a lot of reading and watching my passion. I want to continue learning until I get done and all coaches should feel that way.
"I got experience with them at the middle school. I am really excited that the job was extended back to me. I am looking forward to it."
Short has had some of his players involved in summer pickup games at Twin Valley High School. He anticipates having a squad of between 35-40 players with a host of returnees who gained valuable experience as underclassmen a year ago.
Phoenixville registered a 6-9-5 overall record during the 2007 season while competing in a Pioneer Athletic Conference (PAC-10) that is led by perennial champion Owen J. Roberts, with head coach Joe Margusity, and Boyertown, both schools with large enrollments. Short, like the rest of the coaches at Phoenixville, knows that he is working at a smaller school that also diverts girls to other strong fall endeavors like field hockey and cross country.
"My goals are much different," Short said. "The high school job is just part of my responsibility. I want to win. But I also am looking to change the climate and culture of girls soccer at Phoenixville. Mike wanted to do that, too, if he came back. We want a greater work ethic and team chemistry in order to move forward."
As part of that aim, Short plants to return to two-a-day workouts for preseason practice.
"We want to crank up the intensity and workload," Short said. "It should be exciting. I am nervous. It is a big challenge for me. But it is also a dream come true. I came through Phoenixville and played at Phoenixville. Now I am back coaching at Phoenixville, which is an incredible community."
Unlike some of the other schools in the area, Phoenixville has only had girls soccer as a varsity sport for roughly 15 years. Back when Short was a student at PAHS, the first year of the sport came when he was a seventh grader. Prior to that time, if there were a handful of interested girls, they simply played on the boys' team.
"I like the town," Short said. "I came from a tight-knit neighborhood. Phoenixville has done a lot for me. Hopefully, I can give back wholeheartedly, not just in soccer. I want the girls to be good people and be successful in whatever they do after high school. I want them to pass it on to somebody else. I am looking at the whole kid."
Short played defensive back for Phoenixville's boys soccer team for three years at the high school with two of those seasons as a starter. Short played for head coach Don Nicholas at the senior high and Carden White and Gary Barron at the junior high (now middle school). Short also wrestled for Barron for six years after Barron moved up to the high school from the junior high school. During his senior year, Short wrestled in the 140/145-pound weight classes.
"Mr. Barron moved up to the high school the same year I did," Short said. "He has always been a tremendous role model for me."
Short proudly remembered how Phoenixville recorded an impressive 13-3-3 overall record when he was a junior. The Phantoms did not have overwhelming talent that year, but they used a diligent work ethic to succeed despite that lack of personnel. The Phantoms came within 3-2 of powerful Great Valley, which was aiming for a national shutout record.
Before that time, Short started playing as a youngster at age 5 or 6 when he was a youth in Berwyn and played with the Greater Chester Valley Club. Then, from fifth grade on, he played at the Phoenixville Area Soccer Club. That group is currently headed by Steve Riley and Roger Tucker after being founded many years ago by local soccer icon Alex Gojkovich. Short spent time coaching a club travel team as well.
"I am only as good as my feeder program," Short said. "I am taking their show and I hope you see that in the next few years."
Short is married to Amy Landis, a former Spring-Ford High School field hockey and girls lacrosse player. They have two children, daughter Ryann, 2 1/2; and son Mason, 4 months. The family resides in Limerick Township behind Manderach Park.
Short discussed his goals for the girls soccer players and coaches in Phoenixville.
"I value that heart and tremendous work ethic," Short said. "It is how we support each other, and if we win along the way, fantastic."