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'Cats' Stouffer teaches last soccer lesson

April 03, 2004|by ANDREW MASON

andrewm@herald-mail.com

If grades were given to coaches, Stan Stouffer probably would earn an 'A' for his studious work in soccer.

"I never played a lot of soccer and never was a great athlete," said the longtime Williamsport boys coach. "But I read books, went to clinics, stole ideas from other coaches and just learned the game and how to coach it."

If coaches could grade athletes, Stouffer, 57, who teaches social studies at the high school, probably would have given out an 'A' or two on the field.

"To me, coaching was just an extension of teaching," he said. "You went out there with a lesson plan and you taught it."

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His players have been equally good learners. But now someone else will have to teach them.

After 231 wins, including two Maryland state championships, 103 losses, including four in the state finals, and seven ties in 23 years at the Wildcats helm, Stouffer recently decided to step down from his post on the sidelines.

"I've been toying with this for the last four seasons," he said. "I'd talk about it being my last year, but then I'd coach another year."

This time, his leaving is for real. The student-teacher of the game said he needs to direct more of his energy to the classroom.

"You just can't do a great job coaching and teaching at the same time, and teaching is my No. 1 priority. That's my bread and butter," Stouffer said. "I was just feeling a little bit burned out. I just got married and I want to do some other things. I need a break, but I wouldn't say I'd never coach again.

"I might want to go back and coach the little guys and the basics of the game and not worry about winning and losing."

Stouffer went out as a winner.

Last fall, the Wildcats went 16-3, capturing Maryland Class 1A state runner-up honors after winning West region and MVAL Antietam titles. They ended the season as The Herald-Mail's top-ranked team in the Tri-State, and Stouffer was the All-Area Coach of the Year. He also was named Small School Coach of the Year by the Maryland Association of Coaches of Soccer.

Stouffer coached the JV team at Williamsport for four years before taking over the varsity program in 1976. After a five-year break from 1985 to 1989, he resumed the head position in 1990. His teams won state titles in 1979 and 1996 and finished second in the state in 1998, 1999, 2000 and last year.

"It was a good run," Stouffer said. "I've had some great assistant coaches through the years, and we've been very fortunate to have some excellent players. High school coaches who are successful have good players, and we've been blessed. And even years we haven't had great players, we turned out a good product. ... It was fun."

Stouffer's successor still is unknown.

"We just posted the job," Williamsport Athletic Director Adrian Custer said.

Of course, it's been more than just a job in Williamsport.

"Stan's been a tremendous asset to the community and the kids," Custer said. "He's developed a good soccer community in Williamsport. Kids always come up wanting to play for the Wildcats. He's a standout teacher in the classroom, and he carried that over to the field."

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