NL's Shiffert will get his kicks this fall
bob ford/times news Northern Lehigh soccer players warm up with some juggling drills before the start of practice. Among the key returnees for the Bulldogs this season are, from left, Jimmy Bilger, Casey McCarroll, Tyler Hoppes, Scott Bechtel, Thatcher George and Channing Shiffert. Shiffert, the 2009 TIMES NEWS Soccer Player of the Year, will double as the kicker for the Bulldogs' football team this season.
Northern Lehigh soccer standout Channing Shiffert and Bulldog coach John Sitaras are both pretty extreme soccer fans. It is easily their favorite sport and they are both hoping that the increase in American fan support continues to grow at the rate it has been.
However, their second favorite sport is football.
This fall, Sitaras agreed to share Shiffert with the Northern Lehigh football team. When not on the soccer field, Shiffert will be handling the place kicking duties for the Bulldog gridders.
"They're very flexible and I welcome that," Sitaras admits about the sharing of the student-athlete. "Traditionally, the high school football kicker is a soccer player. [Head football coach] Joe [Tout] has been very upstanding and respectful of our team and careful not to overwork him. It has been a blessing."
The 2009 TIMES NEWS Soccer Player of the Year, Shiffert enters this season with a different approach, as he will be participating in both sports for the first time. Although the task may be daunting to some, Shiffert cannot wait to 'kick' things off.
"With the football team and being a part of that this year, they're the flexible ones," Shiffert said. "Soccer is number one for me and they know that, but I am so excited to be a part of it this season and I'm excited to get started with both."
Last year, as a sophomore, Shiffert earned the TN area's top soccer individual honor, but was quick to downplay that fact.
The Northern Lehigh junior is about as team-oriented as they come, admitting, "If I don't get the honor again and we win games as a team, that will be perfectly fine with me. If I were to move to goalie and never score another goal in my career, as long as we win games, that's all I want."
Despite pulling the double-duty with two sports, this still isn't the busy time of the year for Shiffert and his family. "When high school soccer comes around, it's actually our time off and down time for me," Shiffert admits.
Between training with his club team and participating in other family activities and sports, it's amazing that he has time for anything else. However, he definitely makes time for one thing, in particular.
"My mom is a teacher and with that influence in the home, it has always been academics first for me...then athletics," Shiffert said. "I try to focus more of my attention on the schoolwork before thinking about a soccer match."
During his "busiest" time of the year, Shiffert and a family member or friend will usually travel about an hour and a half to Radnor in Philadelphia to workout with his club team, FC Delco. With such a hectic offseason schedule, he is usually pleased with the fall sports season approaching.
"My parents (John and Steph) have been so supportive of me over the years," Shiffert said. "My brother (eighth grader, Zeb) is also training just as hard and we are on the road with him as well."
With such a successful individual season behind him, Shiffert isn't about to settle and relish in past successes. That's not him.
"I don't think I'd achieve anything in life without having high expectations," said the 5-8, 140 pound athlete. "That's just the way I look at it."
Sitaras added, "He is a coach's dream a player that understands the game, and possesses the skill and talent to help the teammates that surround him on the field. A player like Channing comes along once in every 10 or so years and we are trying our best to surround him with a strong team."
After finishing the '09 season with a 6-11 record, the 'Dawgs graduated three seniors and hope to improve upon that mark this season.
With Shiffert entering the football lockerroom as a newcomer, some apprehension might be expected with the unchartered territory. However, Shiffert dismissed that thought.
"I've been friends with the football players for a while and they're excited for me to be a part of it as much as I'm excited to be a part of their team now," he related.
With the recent and expected success for the upcoming football season at Nolehi, the winning attitude and hopefully, tradition will carry over to the soccer program as a part of this personnel share.
"The football program has been a success for as long as I've been a coach here at Northern Lehigh," Sitaras said. "I think this will give a lot of players incentive to do well on the soccer field, as well. Our soccer program has been gradually becoming a stronger program and hopefully it continues this season."
Whether he is kicking field goals or scoring goals, the most important thing for Shiffert is that he helps his teams win.