Exiled HS Lax Coaches Mull Next Moves
by Justin Feil | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | updated 10.15.10
St. Andrew's boys' lacrosse coach Jeff Goldberg, pictured here with the 2008 Florida state title trophy, was not retained by the school despite a 391-75 record and 14 state titles in 17 years.
© Scott McCall
Pioneer high school boys' lacrosse coaches Jeff Goldberg, Doug Bailey and Rich Lefever may be out, but their legacies stand secure.
Shock followed the consecutive announcements over a two-week period in August that each would not be brought back. The trio, with 45 years of high school coaching experience between them, had helped their teams enjoy success on the field and sent countless players to the collegiate ranks. They changed the face of lacrosse in their areas and helped to grow the sport.
Goldberg had posted a 391-75 record in 17 years as head coach at St. Andrew’s School in Florida. He was also an assistant at St. Andrew’s for one season. He led the Scots to the state title in 14 of the last 16 years, including the last eight straight seasons. Goldberg was unavailable for comment after a recent move off campus, but his wife, Jennifer, talked about what guiding the program meant to him.
“In leaving there,” she said, “what he’s probably the most proud of is how his former players have been ambassadors for the sport and how they’ve helped bring the sport to a much more reputable level in the state. One thing he tried to instill in his players was they’re part of something much larger.”
Goldberg helped more than St. Andrew’s. He put the state of Florida on the lacrosse map while pushing the Scots to a team that was consistently nationally ranked. He looked beyond state borders when he measured his teams with the powers of the Northeast.
“I definitely think there’s a deep sense of pride in what’s been developed down here, and that he was a part of it,” Jennifer Goldberg said.
Bailey and Lefever both helped to raise the bar in Pennsylvania. Bailey started the Hempfield High School program. In 17 years, he amassed 260 wins, seven Central Pennsylvania titles, four Lancaster-Lebanon crowns and one District 3 championship.
“I’ve enjoyed the experiences, even the ones that haven’t been pleasant ones,” Bailey said. “The fact of it is, without some of those unpleasant experiences, maybe it wouldn’t be around and be such an anchor in Central Pennsylvania.”
Bailey had hoped to coach one final year at Hempfield where his son, Ryan, is a senior, but wasn’t given the chance to leave on his own terms. He had stepped away from the program before while it was in its infancy to take a principal position. But two years later, when the lacrosse job opened up again, he couldn’t stay away.
|"Central PA lacrosse is pretty much synonymous with
Coach Bailey," says former UMBC and current Chesapeake Bayhawks
star Kyle Wimer, a candidate to replace Doug Bailey at Hempfield
"It was my baby," Bailey said. He was worried that the program was so young it might not survive. It’s different leaving now after establishing a feeder program that begins in elementary school, and with a reputation of success.
“I know the program isn’t ending now,” Bailey said. “It now feeds itself. Lacrosse is entrenched in that area, as far as kids and parents loving the game.”
Bailey also helped to get the program going at Hempfield’s rival, Manheim Township. Lefever, a basketball and football coach who had never played or coached lacrosse before, started the program and built it up over the last 11 seasons. He amassed 173 wins, four league titles, four District 3 titles and appeared in two state championships.
“The memories are unbelievable,” Lefever said. “The number of parents and kids that have stopped by and called me and wished me luck has been amazing. That’s when you know you’ve touched people. I’m getting old and gray and having players who are having babies. It’s neat that they stay in touch, and that they want you to be a part of their family. That’s the stuff you won’t ever forget.”
Bailey and Lefever were rival coaches on the field, but are friends and co-workers in the same school district off it. They created teams that could contend with Philadelphia-area schools and began producing higher level players. Kyle Wimer, a Hempfield graduate and current Chesapeake Bayhawks pro, is a candidate for the still vacant position at his alma mater.
“Central PA lacrosse is pretty much synonymous with Coach Bailey,” Wimer said. “Hempfield lacrosse set the standard while I was there. Manheim Township has picked itself up. Those two are still the class of Central PA lacrosse. That’s due to the two coaches.”
Tim Stratton set the all-time high school scoring record while playing for Lefever at Manheim Township. Stratton is now a senior at Towson.
“A lot of things I accomplished and a lot we accomplished as a team were because of him and our coaches,” Stratton said. “The main thing I got from playing for Coach Lefever was playing hard.
“Every single one of us who went to college or the real world, it wasn’t that big of a change. It wasn’t that big of a step because he prepared us.”
"Every single one of us who went to college or the real world, it wasn't that big of a change," current Towson and former Manheim Township (Pa.) star Tim Stratton says of high school coach Rich Lefever's mentorship, "because he prepared us."
It didn’t take long for the Pennsylvania pioneers to find work. Though both had talked about spending more time on the other side of the sidelines, they have already taken new jobs at the next level. Bailey, who also runs the Blue Mountain Lacrosse Program, which draws players from around Central Pennsylvania, will assist Terry Corcoran at Elizabethtown College. He is looking forward to the next step in his coaching career after leaving Hempfield in good shape.
“I don’t think I’m going to miss a thing,” Bailey said. “I’ve been doing it long enough that I have been satisfied with everything I have done, and I now leave it in the hands of others. I would not be satisfied if I left the cupboard bare.
“Probably one of the biggest things that I did, I tried to develop our coaches as they came up through the elementary to the middle school to the high school and college ranks. They’re coming back to coach. They’re going to be the ones that eventually lead it into the next decade.”
Lefever will serve as offensive coordinator at York College. He is confident, however, that Manheim Township will continue to be a power as well.
“We’ve got facilities second to none,” Lefever said. “We have four turf fields and two weight rooms, so the facilities are second to none. We have a 4-A (sized) student body, so we always have numbers. And there’s a healthy program K-12 which will keep things going in a forward direction.”
A replacement has not been named at Manheim Township either.
Goldberg, who like Bailey has previous college coaching experience, is interested in staying at the high school level. For now, he will remain an integral part of the Florida lacrosse scene as he shifts more of his focus to his Premier Players Lacrosse Academy, which he started 12 years ago to develop and promote players for the next level.
“That,” said Jennifer Goldberg, “will provide the outlet for him to be on the field and coaching and working with kids, which is what he wants to do.
“He really loves working at the high school level,” she added. “He feels that’s where they’re most moldable. He feels he’s most effective at that level. He feels he can rear the boys into accountable young men.”
Lee Coppersmith was a football player first when he moved from New York to Florida. At St. Andrew’s, he played two years of football, but grew to love lacrosse under Goldberg.
“Coach Goldberg turned good athletes into great players,” Coppersmith said. “He lives lacrosse. He breathes lacrosse. He’ll work with you and give you everything you need to get there, if you want it. He can make you a D-I player in four years.
“I felt mentally and physically ready for my transition to college lacrosse,” he added. “He coached like a college coach, and he ran practice like a college practice. I felt totally prepared.”
St. Andrew's has turned to assistant coach R.J. Dawson to be interim head coach for the Scots. They also recently brought in Casey Powell as Director of Lacrosse Programs. Goldberg is looking for the right spot to land in Florida at another scholastic program.
“What he’ll miss the most,” Jennifer Goldberg said, “which was always the most important to him, was that off-the-field camaraderie and bonding, and how it lent itself to the success of the program he built at St. Andrew’s. That’s what so many people didn’t see.
“It was just that other side of him that [the players] saw and understood. That’s the side that earned their respect, dedication and loyalty. It was something the team needed and something he needed too.”