I was reading recently of some of the legendary high school coaches of all time. Great stories of men and women who have dedicated their lives for the opportunity and responsibility to influence a young person for life through the power of coaching!
Pretty strong stuff!!
It made me think about the coaches, or influencers as I like to call them, I had while I was attending Syosset High School in Syosset, NY. I played three sports – football, basketball, baseball – and I was good in all three. Our teams enjoyed considerable success and the football team my senior year went undefeated and was ranked #1 in New York.
My coaches were Joel Goldberg, Len Mintz, and John Miller. Back then we referred to them as “Mr.” not “Coach” as is the trend today. They were talented and dedicated and they certainly had their own style of coaching. All three ingrained lessons in me that have shaped my life.
I am thankful to them for the role they played as coaches to my teammates and me during those very important years of our life. There are many other coaches both in youth sports and the college ranks that I could mention as well, but today we focus on these three individuals who were my coaches at Syosset High School.
Here are the Syosset High School coaches that I played for as a varsity athlete:
- Joel Goldberg, baseball coach. Affectionately known as the “Bear,” Mr. Goldberg was my baseball coach at Syosset High School. We had a very successful baseball program during the three years I played varsity baseball. My senior year we advanced to the finals for the North Shore championship game. “Bear” was a player’s coach and I was grateful that we didn’t have long practices during those very cold March practices. We played three games a week so there really wasn’t much time for practice. “Bear” relied heavily on his seniors for leadership and those seniors always came through in leading by example. “Bear” was not a big disciplinarian but I do remember one incident in which he called me out following a poor pitching performance. We were on a Florida Spring break trip the beginning of my senior year season. I gave up a bunch of runs in one of the games. As the bus pulled away from the field, “Bear” stood up and in front of the entire team began his post-game talk with, “well we learned one thing today, Matt Kupec is hittable!” Ouch, I was a returning All-County player as a junior, a leader of team, and would go on and have a great senior year. But, that day “Bear” – who rarely got angry -used the right touch to get me straight and help motivate me to play up to my ability in what became a special season..
- Len Mintz, high basketball coach. I played for Mr. Mintz on the 9th grade football team as well. I do have one great story that I’m not sure he would even remember. We were getting ready to play a pre-season Saturday morning scrimmage but the day before in practice I had hurt my wrist in a tackling drill. I was in a great deal of pain that Saturday morning. I went to Mr. Mintz in the locker room and told him my wrist was really hurting and I was thinking that I would sit out the scrimmage. I’ll never forget his response. Mintz pierced at me with a look I’ll never forget and promptly said “okay, we’ll throw short passes then.” Not the reply I expected! So I played the scrimmage and completed 2 of 3 short passes! It turned out that my wrist was broken and I missed the entire season due to the wrist injury! But I have always told that story about Mr. Mintz’ with pride and that” I completed 67% of my passes with a broken wrist”. One of my favorite stories ever!
Mr. Mintz became the Syosset High School basketball head coach my junior year and we knew we were getting a talented and hard-working coach who would teach us sound basketball and he would work us like crazy. I never ran so much in my life. Mr. Mintz’ favorite conditioning drill was the dreaded gassers! You run baseline to baseline, then back to the foul line and back, and then to half court and back, and then to the nearest foul line and back. Tiring just even telling you what gassers were! But we ran them, over and over again. But, Mr. Mintz really taught us the fundamentals and we were a favorite to win the Nassau County Championship. We really strengthened our schedule and played some of the best competition on Long Island and that is a lesson I will never forget. You need to play against the best to be the best! A freak upset in the quarterfinals kept us from our dream but Mr. Mintz did a great job coaching us.
- John Miller, high football coach. Syosset hadn’t had much football success before Mr. Miller arrived as head coach in 1967. Miller built an incredible program and the stretch from 1968-1974 turned out to be Syosset’s best winning period ever. My brother Chris and I quarterbacked four of those years. We were both prep All-Americans but we were surrounded with incredible talent in players like Kevin Mannix, Jack Miraval, Dave and Ken Bailey, Rich Maake, Tom Parnon, Mike Rosetti, Don Perfall, John Seldon, Len Ridini, and so many others.
Mr. Miller instituted a rather unique pre-game ceremony before games. He would introduce each starting player in the wrestling room where we came together before taking the field. It was a very cool pre-game ritual. I will never forget the emotion, the intensity, and the noise level when we did these introductions before the Farmingdale games my junior and senior years. I have played in major college games in front of crowds of 70,000 when there was incredible excitement surrounding those games but the camaraderie, the feeling of team coupled with the incredible noise from this pre-game ritual created the most electric atmosphere I have ever experienced.
These three men were great coaches – influencers – for my teammates and me. We had an incredible successful run with these programs at Syosset High School and a major reason was due to the leadership, commitment and dedication of these men who influenced our lives in so many ways. On behalf of all my teammates, I say a heartfelt thank you!!
About the Author (mattkupec.org)
Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience. He has directed three major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership. He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit.