A soccer player named Jack is accustomed to the “jack-in-the-box” puns that come up in discussions of offensive movement around the goal box.
In October 2021, Lehigh men’s soccer coach Dean Koski played a clip from the movie “Elf”, wherein Will Ferrell winds up and lets loose a jack-in-the-box over and over again.
“Jack, every time you don’t get in the goal box, I’m going to play this video for you,” Koski said to senior forward Jack Sarkos who was in the midst of a goal-scoring dry spell.
After experiencing this coaching tactic, Sarkos went from having scored one goal up until that point to finishing the season as No. 1 in the league with eight goals scored last year. He also earned a spot on the All-Patriot League First Team his junior season.
Sarkos was nominated for Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week for the second time after recording his second career hat trick and scoring a career-high seven points in Lehigh’s match-up against American University on Sept. 16. His first nomination also followed a hat trick against Navy in late October 2021.
Named “a proven goal scorer with consistency in our program” by Koski, Sarkos has gained success in college after dealing with a difficult transition from high school soccer to a Division I program.
Koski said Sarkos came to Lehigh with the high school mindset of needing to be on the ball at all times, which created a challenging adjustment for him in facing better and faster defensive collegiate players.
Koski said Sarkos had to establish an identity and start performing with consistency to redefine himself as a player in his underclassmen seasons.
It was after Sarkos’ jack-in-the-box lesson that Koski began to notice a big turnaround in his performance.
“When I think back to October of 2021, he was just on fire every game and putting himself in a great position,” Koski said.
Despite initially having trouble with the college adjustment, Sarkos said the team’s culture helped him in becoming the player he is now. Describing himself as a team player, Sarkos attributes his success to his teammates, whom he says make his life easy.
Senior defender and team captain Euan Forrest said Sarkos has always been a great friend and teammate, and that it came as no shock either time when he was awarded Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week.
“He has so many personal accolades, but his primary goal is always the team’s success,” Forrest said.
Sarkos said he is working on not being selfish with the ball, and to do so he does his best to prioritize his teammates before himself — a trait that Forrest said makes being on a team with Sarkos special.
“In practice the other day, coach (Koski) said he was going to start picking on me because I’d pass up on a ball in practice that I probably could have shot,” Sarkos said. “He asked me if I wanted the credit and the press or not, and I said that I don’t care about who scores, I just want to win the game.”
Sarkos said as an underclassmen, he always played for the seniors and tried to make their final season memorable.
Now a senior himself, Sarkos said he has a new perspective and mindset looking towards the rest of the season.
“My career is now soon coming to an end, and it’s like, how can I extend it for as long as I possibly can?” Sarkos said.
Sarkos and the Mountain Hawks will make their next home appearance on Oct. 4 against Drexel University at the Ulrich Sports Complex.