A.J. Sweeney was recruited to Coker College to play soccer. Then he recruited his brother. The Huntington, Md., native convinced his younger brother, James, to join him on Coker’s campus and on the playing field.

“I never went on an official campus tour,” said James, a sophomore mathematics major, “because I felt like I went on one every time I visited A.J.”

Together, the brothers helped lead the Cobras to their best season in school history, including the team’s first-ever Conference Carolinas Tournament Championship.

“Both A.J. and James are incredibly driven to succeed,” said Paul Leese, Coker’s Head Men’s Soccer Coach. “This has the wonderful effect of inspiring those around them.”

As a team captain, A.J. was named the Conference Carolinas Men’s Soccer Tournament MVP and earned All-Tournament team honors. He also served as a volunteer assistant coach during the 2010 season. His experience was valuable in guiding many of the younger players, Leese said.

James, starting goalkeeper for the past two seasons and a Third Team All-Conference selection in 2009, was named the Conference Carolinas Men’s Soccer Player of the Week in September 2009.

While excelling on the field as influential members of the soccer team, the Sweeney’s maintained the necessary grades to be named to the Conference Carolinas Presidential Honor Roll for academic achievements.
“Everyone calls me a genius,” said James. “I don’t think of myself that way, but I get pretty good grades.”

He maintains a 4.0 grade point average and frequently helps teammates with classwork. He plans to attend graduate school and eventually become a professor at a college similar to Coker.

Before graduating in 2010, A.J. completed an internship at Hartsville High School. The sports management major developed time management and prioritization skills and became accustomed to working in a professional setting.
“My internship gave me a glimpse of what my future career in the real world would bring,” he said.

During his internship, A.J. assisted the head soccer coach at practice, created programs, helped develop the athletics schedule and ordered uniforms.

A.J. said he feels prepared to effectively communicate in the work force because he has become accustomed to interacting with authority figures on a regular basis while at Coker.

“We can even talk to Coker’s President, Dr. Wyatt, almost anytime we want,” James added. “Things like that make us less intimidated as we prepare to communicate in job interviews and with future bosses.”

James and A.J. both have a competitive nature that has led to a strong work ethic and a sense of discipline, in the classroom and on the field.

“You have to have a good work ethic if you want to succeed,” said James, “and you have to have discipline. Being competitive just makes you work hard at all aspects of life.”

And although they played together on the field, the brothers never took classes together at Coker.

“It would have been a competition, just like soccer,” A.J. said, “except we would have been competing against each other.”