At Mt. Hebron, coach is a father figure – really
Senior Johnny Linsenmeyer is a standout for his dad
For Johnny Linsenmeyer, the late November day in 2006 couldn’t have been any better.
He was in second grade, and just getting an early dismissal from school was cool. He got the pass to hang out with his father, Mike, the boys soccer coach at Mount Hebron, as the Vikings were playing for a state championship at UMBC Stadium.
Young Johnny soaked in the locker room excitement before the big game. Sitting on the team bench, he saw no panic when the opponent, North Carroll, scored the game’s first goal.
After the Vikings got the tying goal, Mike Mike Linsenmeyer
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Closures affect schedules Napolitano scored the winner in the closing minutes: Mount Hebron 2, North Carroll 1. Jubilation followed. “I remember it vividly,” said Linsenmeyer.
“It seemed like the whole school was there and it was just such a fun day, so exciting.”
The Linsenmeyers were at the school’s weight room following a practice earlier
this month — Mike now in his 15th season as coach and Johnny a 17-year-old senior captain — recalling many of the fond memories they’ve shared through soccer over the years. The earliest was when Johnny was around 3 years old, small enough for the players to put him in an equipment bag and gently toss him around.
The father and son were also shaking their heads, finding it hard to believe that Johnny is a senior set for his fourth varsity season as the team’s center-midfielder.
After fielding quality teams the past three seasons with disappointing finishes (the Vikings have been eliminated in the region playoffs on penalty kicks in each), the perfect ending to Johnny’s high school career would be getting out of school early again for a chance at another big win on the season’s final day.
“It’s hard to believe this is the last year I’ll be involved with [Mount Hebron soccer] because, since I can remember, I’ve been coming to practices and then playing for the team,” Johnny said. “We’re definitely trying to use the past three years as motivation. The whole team is really committed, and the tradition that Hebron is known for seems to be wrapped up into this season. We’re all working hard and it’s coming together.”
For a father and son, the coach-player relationship can be tricky, but the Linsenmeyers have been able to handle it successfully.
Coming in as a freshman, it was apparent Johnny had the skills and sense to earn a starting spot. The question was where he would play. cross country field hockey, volleyball football girls soccer
“He was small, skinny and slow, and outside-midfield wasn’t a good place. So we moved him in the middle of the field [at attacking center-midfield] and he was getting the ball moved around quickly and it looked like he should be there,” Mike Linsenmeyer said. “I asked the seniors, the leaders on the team, to make sure, and they said, ‘Yeah, Johnny needs to be there.’ ”
Johnny Linsenmeyer has been a standout ever since.
Last season, he scored 12 goals and added seven assists to lead the Vikings to their first outright Howard County title since 2006. The Howard County Times named him the county’s Player of the Year.
In soccer-rich Howard County, the Linsenmeyers have impressive father-son acts to follow. At Oakland Mills, longtime coach Don Shea savored his time with his son, Trevor. At River Hill, it was former coach Bill Stara and his son, Matt. At Atholton, former coach Roch DeFrances led his son, Scott.
Don Shea watched his son enjoy a standout game to help the Scorpions win a state title and has seen a familiar trait in Johnny Linsenmeyer.
“Big players play big in the big games, and I’ve seen Johnny save Mike’s behind a couple times,” Shea said. “One year, he scored a banger left foot that beat two kids with maybe five minutes left in the game. It was a Friday night and they beat Long Reach, 2-1, and I remember saying to Mike: ‘Hey, he saved you there because you would have had a helluva weekend if you would have had turned around and lost or went into overtime.’ ”
The Linsenmeyer household rule was established at the start of Johnny’s high school career. The two had the drives to and from school, practices and games to chat soccer, but Mike’s wife, Brigid, insisted that the talk didn’t come through the front door.
“I think we do a decent job separating coach-dad at the house. It’s very rarely that I let it carry over past the ride home,” Mike said. “I think my wife would actually kill me. From day one, that was her thing: It’s not going to happen. And she’s right about just about everything, so I have definitely listened to her.”
Mike is proud and modest when the subject turns to just how good Johnny has become. “He’s smart and he’s unselfish and makes the right play when it matters the most,” he said.
Last season, Howard County rival Centennial came into its regular-season game with the Vikings undefeated in county play. Johnny put an end to that with a shot from the top of the penalty area — a one-timer with his left foot to the top corner — that was the difference in a 3-2 win. For a coach, there’s nothing better. It’s even better when the coach is also Dad.
“I remember thinking what a big goal that was to win it,” Mike said. “And I was driving home with his mom saying, ‘He actually may be pretty good.’ That was a big After three years in which Mount Hebron has been eliminated in the region playoffs, Johnny Linsenmeyer has set his sights on changing that ending this season. goal and he was such a big part of that game.”
Johnny’s final season arrives with big expectations. Mount Hebron has another talented group back with potential. The Linsenmeyers — both fiercely competitive — will be doing everything they can to get the most of it. They plan to savor the ride.
“I’ve just started to realize that the four years goes by really fast and that doesn’t hit you until your senior year. I’m hopefully going to instill a good work ethic into my teammates, be positive with them and help them as much as I can,” Johnny said. “I just got to push my team … and make them realize it doesn’t last forever.”
Johnny Linsenmeyer, middle, ended last season with 12 goals and seven assists for Mount Hebron, leading the Vikings to their first outright Howard County title since 2006.