PEABODY — It’s fair to say that Peabody native Sam Charest took the road less traveled to becoming the new head girls soccer coach at Beverly High. Charest’s playing career was cut short when she suffered an ankle injury as a 15-year-old. She could’ve abandoned soccer all together and ventured into other interests, but Charest chose to stay connected to the sport through coaching.
Charest served as an assistant at the U10 level, where she got her first taste at coaching. In 2015, she joined the staff at Bishop Fenwick as the JV girls soccer coach. Her position with the Crusaders allowed Charest to learn from former Fenwick varsity coach Karen Guillemette. In 2017, Charest joined Jim Foley’s staff at St. Mary’s. She helped coach the Spartans to consecutive Division 4 North state tournament appearances.
Now Charest prepares to take the next step in her coaching career– her first position as a head coach. Beverly High Athletic Director Dan Keefe made the announcement earlier this month. Charest will replace Kristin Simpson, who guided the Panthers for 15 seasons.
“At first I was a little shocked,” Charest said. “I had applied going in with the idea that getting an interview would be a good experience. They have a reputable program at Beverly. The first interview went very well. Mr. Keefe called me in for another interview with (school principal Elizabeth Taylor). I was pretty nervous after that one. (Keefe) called me the next morning to offer me the job and I was ecstatic.”
Charest inherits a Beverly team that went 12-4-2 during the 2018 regular season. The Panthers kept pace with the top teams in the Northeastern Conference but struggled when the Division 2 North state tournament rolled around. Beverly’s season ended with a 3-1 loss to Arlington in the tournament’s first round.
“I’ve known Beverly for a very long time,” Charest, also an assistant girls lacrosse coach at St. Mary’s, said. “They’ve had a strong program. I know they graduated some strong seniors. I met with the team last week. They’re energetic, they’re excited and they’re committed to doing whatever it takes to win. I’m very excited to work with the team. You can only control two things- your work ethic and attitude and so far their seem great.
“That’s something that we talked about from the start,” Charest said of Beverly’s recent struggles in states. “We want to make it to the North final. I think that’s definitely an attainable goal. If they continue to work as hard as they say they’re going to, we’ll be fine and we can accomplish that.”
Charest is familiar with the other programs in the NEC. With no shortage of competitive, skilled teams in the conference, Charest knows the Panthers will be tested in each conference game.
“The NEC’s tough,” Charest said. “There’s no easy game in the NEC. Peabody’s always a powerhouse. They’re been a powerhouse since I was in high school. Swampscott’s amazing. They’re going to be good for a long time. Danvers is amazing under Jim Hinchion. Their youth and upperclassmen are fantastic. Marblehead’s growing into their own. It’s going to take some time getting used to. There’s going to be some learning. I expect it to be a good season but we’re going to have to work for every game.”
Academics will be a priority as Charest prepares to take over the helm at Beverly.
“Student life is important too,” Charest said. “I know it’s cliche but they’re student-athletes for a reason. Academics are important. Soccer’s great but I’m not naive on that soccer’s for now and education’s forever.”
Charest credited those who’ve helped her come into her own as a coach. She learned the ins and outs of coaching at the high school level from Guillemette and Foley.
“I’ve had great mentorship,” Charest said. “Karen was amazing to me when I started at Fenwick. She encouraged me to ask a lot of questions. I still talk to her more than once a week. She helped me find my own style. When I went to St. Mary’s, Jim had been amazing to me. I gained a lot of confidence. He helped me implement what I learned with Karen. He helped me figure out my own style.
“I’ve been surrounded by really amazing people who’ve helped me learn and grow. I feel I’m ready and I’m confident. The soccer knowledge is there. It took me a while to put it together. This past year I felt ‘I’m ready to give this a try.’ I said ‘let’s give it a try’ when the Beverly job opened. They were looking for all the things I was saying. I was looking for all the things they were saying. It seemed like a perfect match.”