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Sports Archives The Altamont Enterprise, June 9, 2011
By Jordan J. Michael
GUILDERLAND Barb Newton, who has been head coach of the Guilderland girls’ varsity soccer team for the last 25 years, is being forced out of her position for next season.
Curtis Snyder, who assisted Newton last fall, told The Enterprise this week that the head coaching spot is his after being offered the job by Wanye Bertrand, the athletic director, last week.
Richard Weisz, Guilderland’s school board president, said Tuesday that “no decision” has been made about coaching positions or Newton’s fate. The board met in executive session on Monday, but no motions were made about coaching appointments for next year.
“There was some discussion,” Weisz said. Hiring and firing coaches is up to the school board, according to State Education Law.
Newton, who has been teaching physical education at Guilderland High School for 25 years, said that she hasn’t been given a full explanation from the administration since she first heard about the news earlier this year.
“I wasn’t reappointed to the position,” Newton said. “Honestly, I don’t know why. The administration hasn’t really told me anything. I’m looking, and hoping, for answers.”
During Newton’s term as head coach, the Lady Dutch never won a Class AA title, let alone ever played for one in 25 full seasons. Marie Wiles, superintendent of Guilderland schools, said this week that not winning a sectional title would have nothing to do with the removal of Newton.
“You have the conversation of winning and losing, sure, but more important than that is the life lessons taught,” Wiles said. “It’s about being part of a team and learning the game. That’s the heart of it. Unlike college ball, wins and losses are not the main indicator.”
Bertrand didn’t return a message left by The Enterprise, but Snyder confirmed this week that Bertrand interviewed him for the girls’ coaching position last week. “The job was posted, so I applied,” Snyder said. “Bertrand interviewed me and I got the job. I will be the head coach.”
Wiles said that “not all” coaching positions are posted; coaches are asked to indicate at the end of a season if they wish to continue. Bertrand and Regan Johnson, Guilderland’s assistant director for athletics, are responsible for interviewing the candidates, said Wiles. From there, human resources is notified about the selected candidate, and then the school board votes on the appointment.
Coaching appointments used to be selected per season, Wiles said, but now the appointments will be chosen for the entire school year. “A lot of factors” go into releasing a current coach, Wiles said.
Newton said that she had “unfinished goals” as a coach, but Wiles said that Newton “did not express interest” to coach soccer next fall.
“I’m leaving the field early,” Newton said. “I still feel qualified. I’m disappointed to not have anymore opportunities to reach more goals.” She was looking forward to a Suburban Council title, a sectional final, or a Class AA championship. “I will never be able to achieve that,” she added.
“Concerns about Newton were raised earlier on,” said Wiles. “I can’t say much more than that. We listen to the students and the parents and look at many things. But, there’s no set formula to the process.”
At a soccer game last October against Bethlehem, which Guilderland lost, most of Bethlehem’s bench players sat out while the Dutch kept substituting in bench players. Newton said at the time that her team was 18 to 20 players deep. “Subbing is good,” she said. “Each player has their own dynamic.”
Most soccer teams keep the star players out on the pitch, but Guilderland prefers to get ahead by playing almost every team member.
Newton said then that the drive to win hasn’t sacrificed the camaraderie and sportsmanship of the team. “The girls are very close together and nice to others,” she said. “We’ve had few fouls called against us and we have no cards.”
Referees hand out cards to players and coaches for overly aggressive play or inappropriate remarks.”
A long road
Newton, 49, has committed most of her life to the Guilderland community. She graduated from Guilderland High School in 1980 and then received a degree from Cortland State in 1984. She came back to Guilderland and started her teaching and coaching career in 1985. She teaches physical education at the high school.
“The timing for a job opportunity was really fortunate,” Newton said of returning to her hometown. “I jumped right in. I loved this school and wanted to represent it. My heart has always been with this area. I wanted to come back.”
Newton played four years of Division I soccer at Cortland and her team won the first-ever women’s championship in 1980, her freshman year. On the way to the title, Cortland beat top schools like the University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts, Harvard, and University of California at Los Angeles in the finals.
“I’ll remember that forever; a very important time in my life,” said Newton. “I wanted my players to experience the joy of winning a title. Something like that is near and dear to you forever.”
In the 1988 Empire State Games, Newton and the Adirondack women’s soccer team won the first-ever gold medal. She played in the Games for 13 years and coached another five.
Newton has also been the varsity cross-country skiing coach for at least the last 10 years, but has coached multiple teams and sports. She has coached varsity softball, junior-varsity basketball, girls’ varsity lacrosse, and boys’ junior-varsity volleyball.
Newton is responsible for starting the girls’ lacrosse program at Guilderland in 1992. The Lady Dutch has since become a powerhouse under the direction of Gary Chatnik.
“I’ve done a lot of coaching,” Newton said. “I get a tremendous amount of enjoyment out of coaching. I love being with the students (and players) and competing. I’ve seen so many players grow into better athletes. I’m always looking for that.”
Newton said this week, “I didn’t want to stop coaching soccer. I put a lot of time into this program, but this decision is out of my hands. I’ve got to live with it.”
“End of an era”
Curtis Snyder told The Enterprise that he didn’t notice any problems surrounding Newton when they were coaching together last fall. He mentioned that all varsity coaches run into problems, especially with soccer.
“I don’t know her reasons or how she feels,” said Snyder. His father, Don, was fired from his soccer coaching position in 2001, but got his job back after a huge community outcry.
“I don’t know why she wouldn’t coach because she’s been doing it forever,” continued Curtis Snyder. “It wouldn’t surprise me if people were upset about it.”
Curtis Snyder started an eighth-grade boys’ team for the Dutch in 1994 and coached the junior-varsity boys’ team from 1997 until joining Newton last fall. He said his father taught him “everything” about soccer and was “very influential.” Don Snyder founded Guilderland’s soccer program. Snyder assisted his father in 1992 and has been the boys’ varsity tennis coach for quite some time.
“I’ve coached some club teams for the girls, so I thought this was a good move,” Snyder said of replacing Newton. “I would be disappointed if she got her job back, but I would understand. She loved coaching soccer.”
Wiles was very appreciative of Newton’s work as a soccer coach and as a facilitator, saying, “She provided our kids with all the life lessons. It’s an end of an era.”
Teaching is Newton’s “number-one priority,” she said, but it’s been a different feeling for her this year with the doubt about her soccer-coaching career. Newton said she didn’t start really worrying about the situation until the spring, a time when she usually starts preparing for next fall.
“It’s been an emotional rollercoaster since I found out,” Newton said. “I didn’t know how to tell my players; very difficult. Eventually, I did start to talk, but quite a few players already knew. I don’t know how they knew.”
Newton said that not getting to a sectional final in 25 years brings “heartache,” but she’s very happy with what the team accomplished over that long period of time. “That doesn’t mean we didn’t work hard,” she said. “But, it’s a negative and a question I always ask myself.”
In 1999, the Lady Dutch were “one kick away,” Newton said, from a Class AA finals berth against Burnt Hills. That game went through two sudden-death periods and was decided by penalty kicks.
“It went forever,” Newton said of the Burnt Hills match. “Well fought. I definitely wanted a sectional final, but it’s tough to win in the Suburban Council. Maybe in the future.”
Over her soccer-coaching career, Newton learned the “appropriate” ways to act on the sideline. “The game is in the players’ hands and I’m the eyes,” she said. “I kept it personal and became more controlled while letting my players play.”
Looking back on her last season, Newton didn’t think it ended how she would have liked. The Class AA quarterfinals against Bethlehem played out in controversial fashion with Lady Dutch goaltender Jenna Cubello crying foul after a late Eagles’ goal won the game.
“Jenna never spoke out about anything,” said Newton. Cubello had the ball kicked out of her hands after a scrum in front of the net. “My career ended on a questionable call. That’s not the way to go out.”
However, on the bright side, Newton did coach two sets of twins seniors Kelsey and Katie Wood, and seniors Megan and Kyra Malamood last season, bringing her great joy. “I saw how they got along so well,” Newton said. “They cared for the whole team.”
Newton said that she has talked to a few administrators, but she’s looking for some closure.
“I’m getting ready to move on and start a new chapter,” said Newton. “It’s been a tough year, but the program should be fine without me. Tons of awesome kids.”
No matter what, Newton will always love soccer. She said that she wants to watch some games this fall to see how well her players are doing, even if they’re technically not her players anymore.
“One door closes and another one opens,” she said. “I’m ready to watch.”