Out on the practice field one day last week, Shaka Hislop stood among the Concord-Carlisle goalkeepers.
A former keeper in the English Premier League, the 49-year-old Hislop worked specifically with the young players.
Then he took his turn at burying headers in a team-wide crossing exercise.
His daughters, Nia and Talia. also took part. Nia is a freshman striker at Concord-Carlisle. Talia is a senior captain in the midfield.
“It was really nice to have him there,” Nia Hislop said. “We’ve just always thought of him as ‘Dad.’ ”
In a 15-year professional career, the elder Hislop played for Reading, New Castle, West Ham, and Portsmouth. In two of three seasons with Newcastle, the club finished second in the Premier League. Internationally, he started in net for Trinidad & Tobago in its 2006 World Cup group stage opener, the country’s first World Cup contest.
Nia and Talia have a defined soccer pedigree. As the two flourish in the midst of an 8-0-1 start for the No. 11 Patriots, Shaka is content in the role of spectating father.
His playing days ended after a year with Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas in 2007. After being hired by ESPN as a soccer analyst, he and his wife, Desha , moved their five children to the Northeast.
A decade later, his two youngest girls, Talia and Nia, are helping engineer Concord-Carlisle’s best start in the six-year tenure of coach Peter Fischelis.
On Monday, C-C earned a 1-1 tie against top-ranked Newton South, currently ranked third in the Northeast United States by topdrawersoccer.com.
Nia jas stepped in as a freshman and leads the Patriots in scoring (seven goals and one assist in nine games).
“The first thing you notice is her speed, but she’s also able to go toe-to-toe with big, strong backs,” Fischelis said. .
Shaka Hislop said Nia’s quick start has been helped by having her sister nearby.
“Having a sister around has helped her settle in and express herself in a way that maybe other freshmen could not,” the elder Hislop said.
As a 6-foot-2-inch midfielder, Talia is hard to miss on the field. She is playing again after undergoing three knee surgeries in two seasons that prevented her from completing a full varsity season for Concord-Carlisle.
Hislop was cleared for soccer activities less than two weeks before the 2018 regular season began.
“I’m not sure if she credits that determination to her mom or her dad,” said Shaka with a laugh. “It’s been a tough couple of years for her, but when she gets into a rhythm it’s something else.”
Outside of the occasional practice visit, Shaka prefers to let his daughters journey through the sport on their own devices.
“My parents didn’t play soccer at all back in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said. “I played soccer because I loved it, and I loved playing with my friends. I want them to have that same path, if they choose.”
But, as Talia explained, outsiders can be quick to lump the two in their dad’s shadow.
“It was normal for us growing up,” she said. “We’ve taken it in stride because it’s always been our normal.”
Added Nia, “It’s nice to have someone who’s played professionally and can give us pointers in the moment. If anything, what he’s done is good motivation for us.”
Shaka keeps the pointers to a minimum, opting to watch quietly from the stands. He can see how their attitudes off the field serve them well while on it, and sees little reason to offer his opinion unless directly asked.
“Nia is determined and focused in general, so it doesn’t surprise me to see it in her game,” he said. “And Talia’s a little more quiet and cerebral, so she can sit back and analyze. The last thing any high school kid needs is a dad shouting and inserting himself.
“I want them to enjoy soccer as much as they do now, but also challenge themselves, and recognize the fulfillment in that challenge.”
SOURCE: Boston Globe