ALBRIGHT: What a long, crazy ride it has been, Don Fosselman!
Don Fosselman is hanging it up.
No, I cannot believe it either.
Father Time usually always makes the final save. Fosselman laid out the plan to feed him an easy shot, too.
“I always said when my youngest grandson reached his senior year I was going to walk away,” he said.
But, his coaching skills were still sharp in the farewell season.
And, this swan song might just be one of his finest coaching jobs.
There was no shortage of questions for this final team.
Could Caleb Thomas step in seamlessly in replacement of all-state first-team goalie Jacob McKnight?
How would the kids respond to a change in defensive philosophy?
Where was the scoring coming from?
Should the crew survive a tough opening schedule, what changes would be made and would they help?
Things worked out, well.
Everything wrapped up into one of the most unexpected regional finals’ appearances.
Sorry, but it is true.
Everything accomplished in 2019 instantly added to an amazing legacy this man left behind at “The School of Champions.”
When anyone in the state mentions the PHS boys soccer program, the coach’s name is sure to follow shortly behind.
Think about it Big Reds’ students and alumni.
The impossibility of not linking one with the other stands at roughly one in a billion.
He’s been the only coach for the last 32 years.
His coaching career is older than I am!
He was PHS athletic director Mike Hayden’s and principal Ron Kincaid’s first and really only choice for the job.
“Fosselman was the only one really interested and the community backed him and he was a full-time teacher, which is what we (Hayden and Kincaid) wanted, so he got my recommendation,” said Hayden.
And he really should be a shoo-in for the Parkersburg High Sports Hall of Fame next season Jim Hamric.
This is beside the point.
Fosselman will willingly give credit to all his players and coaches.
Everything, though, began with him.
From the humblest of beginnings, there grew a juggernaut.
Does it sound dramatic?
Sure, but the beginnings indeed were enough to bring anyone back down to earth.
The phone campaign made starting the program easier, but not where the group would play.
The raised $10,000 wouldn’t last forever.
“Stadium Field was really being used tremendously at that time and it was a grass field,” recalls Hayden. “So, Buzzy Dils allowed the boosters to make a soccer field in a lot he owned and the boosters really did a great job of developing a field there.
“It was one of the only full size soccer fields in the state, but there were no real requirements for the size of the field.”
Dils’ permission, though, came with a hook.
He was looking to sell the property and he eventually did to Wal-Mart.
Fosselman still attacked the job with enthusiasm.
The inaugural first 7-5 season eventually sprouted into a dynasty at Stadium Field.
One where no one team would ever sport a losing record at season’s end.
Agreeing with Fosselman’s sentiments on this thought is pretty easy.
“Isn’t that amazing? When I think of all the things we have done, not having a losing season still blows my mind,” said Fosselman.
Yes it is, sir.
While it is true alumnus Zak Boggs played professional soccer, the program captured six state championships, then played for five more, and has seen numerous soccer players advance to college soccer, the culture and will to win stand out.
500 victories takes love and great leadership.
Luckily, Fosselman assured both for the Big Reds.
A laugh escapes his mouth when he remembers the early years.
“I am pretty sure the kids were smarter than me when it came to soccer in the beginning,” he recalls with a chuckle.
Something he again attacked with vigor.
There was no convention or clinic safe from his presence.
Money became a casualty in his book and tape purchases.
They all helped and he improved as a head coach.
Considering the nearest team in the Mountain State doesn’t have 400 wins?
Fans who think it stops there?
Well, not so fast.
The importance of leadership for his teams spawned an entire notebook on the subject.
Speakers spoke as the speeches were kept for personal reading and captains practiced exercises jotted in the book to make them better leaders.
Letters from seniors on the expectations of incoming new players added another layer.
Obviously, the culture and sense of community stuck to the red and white.
“You have got to have a strong culture and I think we do at PHS,” said Fosselman.
His players live what he preaches.
Before we spoke on the phone Saturday, the Big Red leader had just returned from the funeral of former player Drew Wolf’s father.
In attendance offering support to Wolf were six or seven other former players.
“Seeing success and watching those young people grow up and go on with their life and just being a small part of their world and developing friendship to last a lifetime will be something I will never forget,” said Fosselman.
How convenient he won’t forget his time as head coach, neither will we.
Hayden, while some things aren’t as clear as they used to be, still remembers his opinion of the hiring.
“It was a no brainer for us,” he said.
Indeed, it was.
What a ride it has been.
Contact Joe Albright at firstname.lastname@example.org.