BY DIAMOND HOLTON
In the world of sports, change occurs often. Players transition from different teams or even roles are switched, allowing players to try out different positions. For coaches it can be the same thing such as accepting other jobs or even stepping down and allowing someone else to be their successor.
Men’s soccer head coach Gerry DiBartolo decided to retire from coaching all together at the conclusion of the 2015 season.
Although DiBartolo has made his decision, he will continue to serve out as interim Athletic Director, a position he accepted last summer following Dr. Michael Vienna’s resignation.
With the fall season coming to a close, DiBartolo has 34 years under his belt as a head coach at Salisbury University notching over 400 wins as the seventeenth winningest coach in Division III history.
When making the decision to retire, DiBartolo said it was not something that just came to him overnight. It was something he had been thinking about for a couple of years.
“I said I would keep coaching as long as there were two things present,” DiBartolo said. “One was I felt that I was able to connect to the kids, and second I felt that I was enjoying myself, and those two things are still present, but it just got to a time where it was time to let somebody else have their chance.”
Another reason why he is choosing to retire is because the recruiting side of soccer has become difficult to deal with due to time commitment and follow-ups.
Handling the roles of a coach and an athletic director can be difficult for some, but DiBartolo said that had no factor in his stepping down as a coach. He is used to serving dual positions, such as when he first arrived at SU. He received the head coaching job while being a professor in the Perdue School of Business.
While coaching, DiBartolo also completed his PhD. on a part-time basis, where for many years during the season he would head to Washington D.C. and have a class three hours after practice. He would then drive back that night and teach class the next morning.
As he reflects back on his time as a coach, he believes his interaction with his players is what stood out to him the most. It’s the greatest thing about being a coach, DiBartolo said.
“We try to recruit people of character getting to see them grow into fine citizens, getting to know their parents and their friends and seeing their kids when they come back for alumni games with their wives. That’s the greatest part of being a coach,” he said.
In DiBartolo’s career, there have been many great moments, making it difficult for him to choose a favorite. One memory he recalls was back in 2004 when he and his team made it to the Final Four.
Other moments he mentioned were winning his first conference championship in 1999 and making a run to the quarterfinals. Reaching 400 wins this past season also ranks high on his list. Perhaps DiBartolo’s grandest memory was watching his two young boys grow up with the team over the years as they came to practices and attended games.
Playing soccer since he was a fourth grader, he feels the sport has been a great part of his life doing wonderful things for him. He’s always looking to see what he could give back to the game, but coaching again does not seem to be in the near future.
“Any way I can be of service, I’ll try and do my part,” DiBartolo said. “Will I ever coach again? I don’t know. Maybe if my young sons have children and their grandpop wants to be the coach, I might do that again, but I don’t see myself being a college coach again.”
For older players who have had some time under the tutelage of DiBartolo, they see him as a father figure. Senior goalkeeper Drew Staedeli believes his coach has helped him develop into the leader younger players say Staedeli has become.
“When I came in as a freshman, there were guys that came to me as father figures in practice,” Staedeli said. “It’s just kind of doing it in return and I really want to push them to be the best player that they can be for this program. This program means so much to me that I want to make it better and keep it at the level that it’s at.”
When discovering the news of DiBartolo retiring, Staedeli said he was definitely shocked. Knowing his coach had been at SU for so long and done so much, it’s hard for him to realize that he will be leaving and finishing his term as head coach.
“Seeing it all come to an end, it was really shocking,” Staedeli said. “He was a little emotional about it as well and we all understand exactly where he’s coming from. Doing something for such a long time, it’s hard to give it up.”
As DiBartolo departs, he has hopes for the current players and ones to come believing there are many privileges from playing for the maroon and gold.
“I hope that guys who play here understand the privilege of being a college soccer player and the privilege of being a college soccer player at a great school like Salisbury University,” DiBartolo said. “They should try to leave the program in better shape than when they entered it and they should be lifetime supporters of the program.”
Despite his retirement, DiBartolo has no plans to stay away from soccer. He would like to watch his team as the seasons go on, but doesn’t want to have the impression he’s hovering over the new coach.
Much like he did as a coach, DiBartolo will be there as a supporter, as well as doing what he can to help and encourage his former team