When it comes to sports, coaches do the coaching and players do the playing.
A coach is designated to the sideline, usually against his well, and is forced to lead his team through strategy and motivation. The player has it a little easier, as he or she is actually playing the game and has a direct impact on the result.
Very rarely can a person be both. It is tough for a coach to be a player when he is not allowed to participate. However, if a player is talented and smart enough, he can understand his head coach's philosophy and essentially become another coach on the field. That is exactly what Malik Krcic became for his Pleasant Valley boys' soccer team in 2010.
"Having Malik was like having a coach on the field for us," said Bears' head coach Chris Pachuta. "Very few times in a coach's career - and I have talked to a number of coaches - do you have a player who is a coach on the field. If Malik turned to me and said he wanted this person here and this person there, I would have said, 'Ok. That's fine. We will switch it up.'
"It's one thing to watch the game from the sideline and it is another to watch it from the middle of the field. It helped to have another pair of eyes in the middle to see the things that I couldn't see. Last year there really wasn't anyone I trusted enough to do that with, but Malik became one of those kids."
Along with leading his Bears to an 18-3 overall record and a spot in the Mountain Valley Conference championship game, Krcic has been awarded the TIMES NEWS Boys' Soccer Player of the Year award.
"I tried to work hard all off-season," said Krcic. "Now, to be getting all these awards, let's me know it was all worth it. It is great to be acknowledged. It feels great, but it would have been better for the team if we won instead of me getting these awards."
The TN Player of the Year was not the only award Krcic received for his efforts this season. He was named the MVC's MVP and was later selected to the PIAA All-State First Team as a Mid-Fielder. Having played the last few seasons on defense, Krcic led Pleasant Valley in scoring with 36 points (15 goals, 6 assists) in his first season on offense.
"When I was younger I always played in the middle." Krcic said. "For the last few years I have been on defense, but switching back was just like riding a bike. I was so hungry to score because I was held in a cage for so long. It was more exciting just having that opportunity again.
"You basically just watch everything happen from the back. It's an extra adrenaline rush when things go through you and you see everything going on - especially when you see your teammates scoring and how happy everybody is. Knowing that you had something to do with that is a good feeling."
Pachuta decided to move Krcic up because he wanted to get another player, Chris Skutnik, in the rotation. Skutnik just so happened to play the same position as Krcic, so the only logical decision was to play Krcic at mid-field. Krcic's technical abilities, along with his size, usually gave him an edge over his competition.
"He is definitely in the upper echelon of kids," said Pachuta. "A lot of big guys aren't technically gifted. They are usually good at playing a big ball or good at whacking people. Malik has the footwork of a smaller player and can still mix it up with the real big guys. That is a very good quality.
"He also has the intangibles. He understands the tactics and reads the game well. That's what made him be a coach on the field. He knew what I wanted."
Unfortunately for Krcic, he and his fellow seniors failed to win a MVC crown during their careers. He admitted that it is something that eats at him every day and he has yet to watch the game tape of this year's conference championship. Still, the lack of titles will not take away from all he has done for the program.
Krcic will have time to achieve better things in his playing career, as he has heard from Division I schools such as Temple, Fordam, Hofstra and Long Island University. Regardless of where Krcic suits up next year, Pleasant Valley high school soccer will always have a place in his heart.
"My three years of varsity were great," said Krcic in retrospect. "It was the best time. I play club soccer all year around, but nothing compares to high school soccer. You are out there battling with guys you have grown up with your whole life. Being around them while doing something you love was fantastic."