“They played for one another”: Coach Alix Charles Leads Varsity Boys Soccer to State Finals
While the trip to the NCISAA State Championship game on Oct. 27 took the varsity boys soccer team just over two hours to make, the path that their head coach, Alix Charles, took to be there with them took many more twists and turns over several decades, bringing him to Raleigh from Haiti via New York City and the men’s U.S. Open Nationals … in volleyball.
Charles was born in Haiti, on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, and moved to the capital city of Port-au-Prince at age 9. As a teenager, he played both soccer and volleyball at a competitive level, even playing soccer on Haiti’s Junior National Team. At 17, he moved with his sister to New York City, where his mother had been living for several years.
“It was unbelievable, going from Haiti to New York,” he said. “The buildings, the cars, the subway, the airport. It was amazing.”
He continued playing both sports while attending Staten Island Community College for two years. He had already played volleyball in the U.S. Open Nationals — “it sometimes conflicted with soccer,” he said with a laugh — when a friend suggested he consider playing soccer for the school. He ended up going to the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Nationals with that team.
“I didn’t know what to expect, coming from Haiti. I didn’t think I’d be playing varsity soccer!” he said. “I just wanted to continue to play a game that I had spent most of my life playing.”
After transferring to Technical Career Institute, where he majored in engineering, Charles started a 25-year career with IBM, which is what eventually brought him to North Carolina. Along the way, he started coaching soccer in community leagues, which made the Capital Area Soccer League a natural fit for him once he arrived in Raleigh. Monica Brown, who at the time was Ravenscroft’s director of annual giving and the varsity girls soccer coach, put him in contact with the school, which named him head coach of the varsity boys soccer team in 2008. He joined our IT Department five years later and currently runs the school’s Chromebook program.
With Ravenscroft’s early days of soccer success — including state championships in 1977, 1978, 1982, 1983 and 1986 and several players from those teams now in the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame — Charles knew he was building on legend.
“First, I needed to understand the culture at the school, what I could do and what I couldn’t do,” he said. “I got support from other coaches, including [assistant soccer coach] Dan Ressner ’99, Will Byrd and Matt Thomas.”
His approach has been methodical, capitalizing on existing strengths and looking for new opportunities to improve his players’ game. One key to building his team, he said, has been off-season training for players coming up the pipeline.
“We have made ourselves available to middle school, JV and returning varsity players in the summer,” he said. “Anybody who wants to try out, we’re there for them, offering technical training and conditioning for free. Potential players are encouraged to participate in our advanced skills camp in July [which was made coed this past year to support the girls soccer program]. Team camp includes training with the coaching staff and players of NCFC.”
Charles has also developed a relationship with Ravenscroft’s admissions staff, who send him information about prospective and new students who express an interest in the soccer program. Many parents of high-potential players will contact him during their application process to talk about his approach to the team.
“A couple of kids came here in part because of that,” he said.
Clearly, the hard work is paying off. The varsity boys team finished this season with an overall record of 18-2, winning the Ravenscroft Invitational (their third title since 2013 and 14th win since the tournament’s inception in 1973) and the 2018 TISAC Championship. Although they fell 2-1 in the NCISAA state finals, against Wesleyan Christian of High Point, Charles is intensely proud of the team’s season. One of his starters, co-captain Emmanuel Petrov ’19 (pictured above left), has already committed to play for College of the Holy Cross in Worchester, Massachusetts.
“This year’s team is very talented. We had the most depth across all positions,” he said. “They gelled really well and played for one another. There wasn’t too much ego on the team.
“We reached all of our team goals except one, which is rare to accomplish,” he concluded. “We hope we’ll continue to succeed and have talented players come through the door.”