People have a tendency to look back during the Christmas season and usually the reflections are good ones. At least, a lot of us like to dwell on positive memories.
I find myself thinking of the many wonderful and successful coaches I've come to know. The negative side ofit is that many of them are no longer with us because of death or retirement. The torch is being passed to a new generation of coaches.
The new breed gradually is filling up the ranks, and we might notbe that far away from losing a few more great ones. The years are piling up.
We can only hope that the new generation will be as dedicated. Dedication was what made those we lost so good for kids. They contributed to the end.
I'm talking about late football coaches Al Laramore of Annapolis and Jerry Mears of Meade, retired South River football coach Joe Papetti, late basketball coach Dick Hart of Andoverand the two people who ran the county program so efficiently until they retired this year, Paul Rusko and Jean Boyd.
Rusko and Boyd were the county coordinators of physical education. Showing his genuineconcern for county athletics, Rusko even hung around on several personal services contracts to fill a void long after his announced retirement.
The contributions of Laramore, Mears, Papetti and Hart wereimmeasurable.
Over the years, the success of Anne Arundel County sports can be attributed to one word: continuity. It's been continuedexcellence, from the top down to the coaches.
While Rusko often shirked controversy when maybe he should have taken it on, there is nodenying that he guided a winning ship. The combination of Rusko's running the boys program and Boyd the girls provided the county with a balance that produced a program that needs to be carried on.
They were around for nearly 30 years, and that continuity has helped county sports grow to where they are second to none in Maryland, from coaches to facilities to performance on the field.
It also helped thatRusko and Boyd developed a rapport with county athletic directors who also had a tendency to stay around.
It seems like there always have been athletic directors like Fred Stauffer at Annapolis; Bernie Walter at Arundel; Tim McMullen and brother Kevin at Broadneck; Al Grau at Chesapeake; Terry Bogle at Glen Burnie; Mike Baker at Brooklyn Park and North County; Jim Dillon at Old Mill; George Roberts or Andy Borland at Severna Park; Tom Albright at Southern; Carmine Blades at St. Mary's; and Fred Hewitt at Severn.
The other schools have relatively new athletic directors, but men who also seem to be dedicated:Domenic Pachence at Spalding, Ralph Beachley at Meade and Jim Haluckat South River.
Of course, Rusko had no power over Spalding, Severn and St. Mary's, but here, too, a great rapport was established. All the schools in the county, public and private, always have seemed to work together.
The hiring or continuation of coaches by those atthe top has resulted in an outstanding program. While I can't hit onall the sports here, let me show you some of the major ones.
Let's start with the football coaches to show the kind of dedication I'm talking about. Laramore and Mears both were still coaching at the end. Each spent nearly a quarter of a century coaching high school football, as did the retired Papetti.
Laramore spent all of his time atAnnapolis, while Mears split time at Arundel and Meade. Papetti coached at Glen Burnie and South River.
They shared winning traditionsthat resulted in young men who won off the field.
Of the current crop of county head football coaches, only seven have been around nine years or more: Andy Borland, Severna Park (19); Buck Gardner, Southern (18); Buddy Hepfer, Arundel (15); Dave Rigot, Glen Burnie (13); Dave Summey, Brooklyn Park and South River (13); and Pete Regala, Old Mill, and Bart Rader (nine).
Borland took over for George Roberts in 1973 when Roberts died unexpectedly after the 1972 season. Robertsstarted the football program at Severna Park in 1960, and by 1963 Borland was one of his assistants.
It's an understatement to say that Borland effectively has carried on the Falcon tradition establishedby Roberts.
Roy Brown just completed his third year as head coachat Annapolis after succeeding Laramore, but here again is a continuation. Brown spent nearly a decade as defensive coordinator under Laramore and played for Mears at Arundel.
Hepfer successively carried on the tradition set by Mears at Arundel when Mears moved to Meade.
Mears-Hepfer proteges as former players or assistant coaches are Chuck Markiewicz at North County and Jeff Herrick at Broadneck.
Rigot, who succeeded a legend in Papetti at Glen Burnie, hasn't had the kind of success his predecessor did, but he has helped a lot of athletes get into college.
Summey succeeded Papetti at South River in 1989 and has continued the Seahawks' tradition with all winning seasons-- including this year's 9-2 campaign and spot in the Class 3A playoffs.