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Tuesday September 16 2014
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A New Chapter

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I wasn’t ready for it. It started as a bubble in my chest, then like a wave, it rumbled up into my throat. I could barely get the words out, as I told my youngest son, “Great effort out there… I love you.”

My throat closed up, and I gave him a quick handshake and hug as he walked off the field and took a seat on the bench behind me.

Why the sudden jolt of emotion? I was watching Anthony walk off the field—and over to me on the sidelines—for the last time. These were our final soccer moments together as members of the same team... father and son; coach and player.

Sure, it hurt as we neared the end of our playoff loss, but that was not what got me choked up. It was all the years we shared, the countless games – all that time ticking down to the final seconds. No more would we wear the Warrior Green. No more drills. No more hands together in the team huddle.

Before our brief embrace on the sidelines, we shared an incredible moment: our eyes connected and we both nodded, knowing it was over. That silent connection between a parent and child who have shared the indescribable bond of coach and player brought an immediate flood of memories.

Years before, I reluctantly became an assistant coach for my daughter’s co-ed soccer team even though I didn’t know much about the game. Even though Anthony was two years younger, he was a contributing member of that first team – which went 0-8. The young players took their lumps, but got better every game, every season, eventually rocketing the top of the division. We lost three straight league championship games before winning the title last November. Anthony and I shared all those ups and downs together: practices, games, referee encounters, talented opponents, parental interactions, wins and losses. But our time together also opened the door to countless conversations about life in general.

Just being there—being together—has helped form the rock-solid foundation of our relationship. Sharing the lessons about competition, fun, human relations, being a teammate, leadership, success, and yes, disappointment. Those experiences are the irreplaceable moments in our lives.

Together we learned how to manage his asthma. How his sleep and nutrition affect his play – and how mine affected my coaching. We learned how to control our tempers, how to be gracious winners and how to move on after difficult losses.

Now it’s onto high school for Anthony, where more talented and experienced coaches will instruct him. I hope he has learned respect for the game and for others, as I often held him to a different standard in our player-coach roles, and I hope his code of conduct as a player and teammate will make me proud.

In a few months, as I sit with the parents and watch him play, I'm sure I will think about our time together in battle, wearing the same colors. And even though I won't be handing the game cards to the ref, nor giving him instructions, I will be there as we move on to another life chapter for father and son. Grateful for the time we have shared as player and coach, and looking forward to the new times ahead.

And cheering for my son.

I spent three days late last month visiting 18 high schools across the WPIAL. I drove 533 miles, took hundreds of photographs, shook hands with dozens of coaches, athletic directors and principals and climbed way too many stadium steps. I loved every minute of it, of course.
Editor's DeskFeature OneHigh School
Chartiers-Houston got on the winning side for the first time this season with a 21-14 win over visiting Western Beaver in the Week 3 CoGo's Feature Matchup.
Feature TwoHSCOGOS2014Press Room
Ringgold knocked the Knoch Knights from the ranks of the unbeatens with a 20-12 win at Joe Montana Stadium on Friday night in the US Steel Game of the Week.
Feature ThreeHSUSS2014Press Room
The Pittsburgh Riverhounds 2014 season ended last Saturday much the same way their season started in the spring. With lots of promise, with much anticipation, but in the end, in a disappointing finish.
Feature FourSports Bites
PSR VIDEO
Full size video and summary... Misc YouTube Player 1 Xfinity HS FootballHigh School TV Channel
Full size video and summary... Misc YouTube Player 2Pirates TV Channel
Full size video and summary... Misc YouTube Player 3USS HS GOTWHigh School TV Channel
Twenty-two WPIAL football teams will have new coaches pacing the sidelines this season, including a few that will be featured in the CoGo's Feature Matchup this season.
Custom 1HSCOGOS2014
Several of the most coveted recruits throughout the WPIAL have already made their college decisions, most notably Sterling Jenkins of Baldwin. Others, like Central Valley's Jordan Whitehead, are still being recruited.
Custom 2High SchoolKeystone Recruiting
Bill Cherpak misses the way it used to be. Back in the 80’s, when the current Thomas Jefferson High School coach was a player at Steel Valley, the recruiting process wasn’t publicized. It was low-key compared to the present.
Custom 3High School
The Mon-Valley has put plenty of athletes on Division 1 football teams over the years, including several who made it to the NFL. There are a few Mon-Valley natives playing D-1 ball this season.
Custom 4HSUSS2014