You see them in our magazine every month: the men and women who are building an athletic foundation and love of sports for our children from the baseball diamonds to the tennis courts, the soccer fields to the golf greens. When asked, they’ll give every ounce of credit to the elementary- through high-school-aged kids they coach each season, but we all know the impact of their guidance and technique. That’s why each year, we take a look back at the greatest coaches we’ve seen, shining the spotlight on some of the best leaders in sports that South Jersey has to offer. This year, after a difficult process of narrowing down the list, we present 20 Coaches of the Year.
Alvaro, a former standout pitcher himself at Washington Township, is well-known for preaching the importance of a cohesive team and working together toward a successful season, as well as balancing athletic and academic goals, which must be why he was recognized last year with the South Jersey Sportsmanship Award for his work with Township’s baseball team. They achieved a remarkable 24-3 record in 2012. The team also claimed the Olympic Conference American Division Championships—for the fourth time—and Grand Slam Classic. Alvaro has amassed a 288-143 record in 12 years.
Heenan received the 2012 New Jersey Golf Coach of the Year award from the National Federation of State High School Associations in recognition of her impressive leadership of the Moorestown girls golf team, leading them to a 7-4 record the prior season. Under her guidance, the young team qualified for the state championships for the second year in a row, finishing fourth in the state in 2011. Graciously, Heenan gave all the credit to her admirable team when she received the award. Though she thought at the time that the 2012 season would be a rebuilding year due to graduation loss, the girls once again achieved a winning record of 12-4 overall and 8-2 in the league.
Curtis Custis and Christian Lynch
Kingsway’s girls winter track and field team enjoyed a highly successful season this past winter thanks in part to the motivation instilled by their experienced leaders—Custis, a former standout at Bridgeton High School, and Lynch, a former Delsea runner. Custis and Lynch’s girls won the New Jersey State Group III Relay Championships in January, clinching many important rounds of competition, including the shot put title and the sprint medley relay, which broke the school record with the sixth fastest time in the country—4:14.79. In the final event, while needing to beat Winslow in the 4 x 400, another school record was broken with a 4:05.35 time. Earlier in the season, the girls also claimed two gold, five silver and two bronze medals in the Tri-County Championships.
Harper has worn many hats during his career as a physical education teacher at Holy Cross, including coaching cross country and track, but the boys basketball court is where he’s found his niche as head coach since 1997. What he’s really become known for, though, is his dedication to giving back through sports. Along with organizing a Toys for Tots drive, he’s the moderator of the school’s Special Olympics Club. Harper helps organize Special Olympics events throughout the year, including a basketball clinic for students from Gloucester County’s Bankbridge School, a school for kids with special needs, and a track clinic for students in the Burlington County Special Services District. The club also works with Smile Train, a nonprofit that helps children born with cleft lips and palates receive treatment.
Coaches come and go every year, whether it be due to retirement or to pursue a new chapter at the helm of a different team, but it’s hard for any coach to compare to Gibney, the 38-year boys soccer coach at Shawnee who retired last June. With a career wins total of 665, he holds the victory record over any other soccer coach in South Jersey history. Over time, he amassed seven state titles, 13 sectional championships, and 12 Coaches Tournament titles. Gibney, who also retired as a guidance counselor, led his team to a spot in the national ranking seven times during his tenure.
Chris Greer and Jay Winkler
It catches our eye any time we see a perfect record, especially when it’s for an elementary school-aged team that spends three months traveling throughout South Jersey to reach its 21-0 record. Coaches Greer and Winkler led Moorestown Lacrosse Club’s Team 4-Black—made up of fourth-graders—to its undefeated season in the spring and early summer of 2012, which included several shutout games and as much as 13 goals in a single game. The most scored against them was eight. Appropriately, the season was capped with a 5-0 victory over Clearview in the SJYLAX Festival competition in June held in Washington Township.
Dan Bartolomeo, Dave Cernava, Tony Kiefner, Kevin King and Michelle Vasell
This coaching staff’s Mount Laurel 10U Storm girls travel softball team went 12-0 during the regular season last year and capped it off in style with four playoff wins, outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 60-9, followed by a high-scoring 16-6 victory over Moorestown at the United Girls Softball Association’s Freedom Division Championship last summer. The guidance of coaches Bartolomeo, Cernava, Kiefner, King and Vasell was said to have fostered in the girls the values of sportsmanship, teamwork and spirit, which helped them to come out undefeated.
Moorestown youth baseball coach Gerber—also a professional poker player who has competed at the world level—put his poker talent to good use by organizing a poker fundraiser with 62 players to benefit Moorestown Youth Baseball. The profit? An impressive $13,000 to help offset field maintenance costs, marking the most money ever raised in a single event for the youth sports organization. Gerber held the second annual tournament this month. We’ll have to report back on his success this time around.
He didn’t win the South Jersey Track Coaches Association Coach of the Year for nothing. A former standout runner himself, Bostwick had been coaching the boys cross country team at Washington Township High School for four years, but this past fall was the first year the team made it to a Group IV Sectional Championship win since 2005, blowing past their seventh place ranking in last year’s race. With an average time of 16:36.77, they also clinched their first Olympic Conference win since 2004—and only the second one in school history.
Last spring brought with it the first state championship title in 26 years—and only the second in school history—for Eastern High School’s girls softball team, coming off an already-impressive 22-4 regular season under McGroarty. Two years ago, the team made it to the Group IV title game but lost by a run, making 2012’s 2-0 victory over defending champ Hunterton Central all the more sweeter. McGroarty’s girls will soon enter their spring season ranked No. 1 in South Jersey thanks to last year’s season, which included South Jersey Group IV and Olympic American Conference Championship wins.
Shelby Smith and Lauren Curry
The Cherry Hill West Dance Team, coached by Smith and Curry, has only been competing for seven years, but is already considered one of the best dance teams in the region. Last year, they dominated the EDA National Dance Competition in Myrtle Beach, S.C., placing first in Large Varsity Hip Hop—for the fifth year in a row—with “Mimes” and third in Large Varsity Jazz with their performance of “Avatar.” They also took home Best Choreography for the “Avatar” number, as well as the Eastern Elite Team award for achieving the highest score of the entire two-day competition, which includes more than 70 performances from schools across the country, for their hip hop routine. The team also won state championship titles from 2007-2011.
By day he’s the vice president of software development and systems engineering for Comcast, a time-consuming position, but not one that can take away from his spare time activity—hitting the local diamonds with the young athletes of his Marlton 8U Reds team. Last summer, he coached them through a shutout 25-0 regular season, the most successful out of the dozens of teams that make up the Marlton Recreation Baseball league. A former Minor League player, Reynolds, along with assistant coaches Joe Morgan, Phil Bonafiglia and Glenn Furman, also brought the team all the way to the state championship (which they won) and to the finals of the Cal Ripken League Regional Tournament in New York. They may have lost, but Reynolds credits the time they spent togther over the summer—in which they became like a family—for their great success.
Holman has accumulated dozens of state and national awards in his 25-plus years of coaching Haddonfield’s girls and boys tennis teams, but his latest award came in December when he was inducted into the NJSIAA Hall of Fame. Last spring, his boys team won the South Jersey Group II championship. They may have fallen in the state finals, but they finished the season with a 31-2 record. Overall, Holman has a career record with the boys of 965-171, which includes 34 Colonial Conference championships, 25 sectional titles and nine New Jersey state group championships. On the girls side, Holman helped the team accomplish a shutout 32-0 record last fall, which included winning the Tournament of Champions and state championships. All together, Holman’s girls’ record stands at 994-122, with 34 Colonial Conference championships, 31 sectional titles, 18 New Jersey state group championships and three New Jersey Tournament of Champions titles.
This time last year, the Flyers Skate Zone’s Midget 16U team was shaken by the news that one of their teammates, Eric “Ebo” Eberling, was diagnosed with a malignant tumor on his femur. The months ahead would be filled with visits to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and multiple rounds of treatment, leaving his teammates to muster up the concentration to continue on, as well as support their friend. And they did both. Throughout the year, with the help of Costa and other Comcast coaches, they gathered support from youth teams across the country, selling T-shirts to help the Eberling family, all the while going on to become the Midget 16U champions at the Atlantic Youth Hockey League Championship last March.
Moehlmann retired as Cherry Hill East’s soccer coach in November, sealing his legacy with a remarkable 270-139-36 record that included nine Olympic Conference titles. This past season was especially impressive, as the boys team, though seeded No. 13, came from behind to win the competitive Coaches Cup. Moehlmann, who grew up in Germany and moved to the U.S. to play soccer for the University of Delaware, also taught German at East for 35 years. In that time, he also created the school’s successful volleyball program, which recorded more than 300 wins and three state titles under his watch.
Seneca’s Siedlecki was inducted into the South Jersey Track and Field Coaches Association Hall of Fame for 2012. She began her career coaching at Shawnee in 1984 as an assistant girls track coach under head coach Mike Yurcho. In 1987, she took over the reins as head coach and, during the next 16 years, Shawnee became a dominant power in girls track and field. Her numerous teams went on to win 10 conference, eight county and seven sectional titles, as well as a state championship. They were ranked No. 1 in South Jersey five times. When Seneca opened its doors in 2003, Siedlecki took on the challenge of forming a new team and, in eight seasons, she led the young program to a No. 1 ranking in South Jersey, winning five conference and two state championships.
Shulman shows that beside every great coach is a great assistant. He’s currently the assistant football coach at Shawnee, but previously paced the sidelines as the head coach at Williamstown. Before that, he served as an assistant for both Collingswood and Cherokee. Last May, he was inducted into the South Jersey Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame as a nod to his career accomplishments (dating back to 1975), which include notching 10 sectional championships in his career along with numerous conference crowns. He was also president of the New Jersey Football Coaches Association and coached in multiple all-star games.
Chris Vaughan, Jeff Haba, Robert Braverman and team manager Denise Farlekas
The success of Vaughan, along with assistant coaches Haba and Braverman and manager Farlekas, dates back prior to 2012. When you look at the stats of their Mount Laurel United U-14 Flash girls soccer team from August 2011 through the fall of 2012, you’ll see an impressive tally of 40-7-6, which says just as much about the girls’ talent as it does about their coaches’ skills. The team placed 5th in the nation at the U.S. Club National Finals last summer in Illinois, and they also came out on top of the U.S. Club Regional and U.S. Club State championships. On the local level, they finished first in the MAPS soccer league thanks to an undefeated fall season.
It’s hard to form a school sports team from scratch, scouting out the best players and building enthusiasm for a new sport. But that’s exactly what Linehan has done with the Paul VI girls volleyball program, which claimed just four wins in its inaugural year two years ago. This year was much different. Their 22-4 record this past fall has cemented them as one of the teams to beat, and that tally includes an impressive two nine-game winning streaks. Their first-ever playoff win is now under their belts thanks to a quarterfinal win against Union Catholic, which was seeded fifth, and none of it could have been done without Linehan’s teambuilding efforts.
It’s not always easy to keep the nerves of a 14U soccer team calm when a game comes down to a penalty kick game-winning scenario, let alone when that game is the state championship. But that’s exactly what Treiber did with the Marlton Red Lightning boys team in the New Jersey Youth Soccer State Cup Championship last November, where not one but two penalty kicks led to the team beating Mount Olive and moving onto the finals, where the game again came down to the wire with a 10-minute overtime period and penalty kicks against Westfield. Their concentration paid off, as the team came out on top and wrapped up its season with a 22-7-5 record, ranking fifth in the state, 40th in the region and 84th nationally.
Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 12 (February, 2013).
For more info on Suburban Family Magazine, click here.
For information about advertising in Suburban Family Magazine, click here.
To find out where to pick up your copy of Suburban Family Magazine, click here.