The Post-Journal

Half A Century Of Coaching

Art Asquith retired from teaching physical education at Cassadaga Valley Central School in 1992, but that's all the 78-year-old retired from. He stayed on as coach and this year is the 50th he's been directing Cougar athletes.

The Alden native came to Cassadaga Valley in 1957 after teaching physical education and coaching at Rush-Henrietta for two years.

"When I went to work in 1957, they were calling Route 60 'New 60,'" Asquith said with a laugh.

And he's been at Cassadaga Valley ever since, though he did investigate the chance to coach baseball at Geneseo State in the 1960s. He decided to stay at Cassadaga Valley, but did Asquith ever think he would still be coaching 50 years later?

"I don't think anybody goes into any particular job thinking they're going to be there for 50 years," Asquith said. "I think its something that naturally happened. When I retired one of the things I guess I was concerned about was, hey, what am I going to do?"

Fortunately in 1992, the superintendent asked him to come back to coach.

"I thought that was a heck of an idea," Asquith said. "I can stay busy and I'll have something to do. And I really enjoyed that part of my job, coaching kids."

And it was different coaching then for Art, who wasn't at the school all day.

"Maybe I lost something in terms of knowing a little more about the kids," he said. "I don't think it really affected my coaching, though"

And now he is coaching third generation players.

"In some instances I certainly had their parents and in some instances I had their grandparents," said Asquith, who now coaches golf and junior varsity girls' basketball.

He's handled the golf team for about 20 years. He also coached baseball and boys' basketball for about seven to eight years, track for one year and also served as athletic director for four years. And he's also served as assistant coach in numerous sports.

When asked his favorite, Asquith, who signed with the Yankees and pitched professional baseball for Olean of the PONY League, said, "I would probably say baseball, but I thoroughly enjoyed them all." He enjoyed teaching the sports as much as coaching them.

"Most good athletes that I had become acquainted with and had watched play had good mechanics and I became a mechanics type of guy and I still am today," Asquith said. "I work hard at teaching fundamentals and I really got into it with my elementary phys. ed. program. Mechanics and fundamentals have really been one of my things."

That's why he enjoyed working with younger students.

"I really enjoyed the modified sports when I had them, but I was still teaching," Asquith said. I had those kids from kindergarten straight up to seventh and eighth grade. They knew me and I knew them. In my opinion, that's where you really get things done because they're very eager to learn. They haven't acquired a whole lot of bad habits and if you're into fundamentals and mechanics, boy, you can really do a job on them. And then when I had the middle school and the jayvees, it really paid off for me because I could reinforce everything I had done for two years in seventh and eighth grade."

Then he added, "I think athletic teams are made in the elementary schools." Asquith has seen plenty of changes in sports in 50 years of coaching and thinks basketball has changed the most.

"What has happened to the game itself, (inventor James) Naismith must be looking at all this and saying, 'Wow, this isn't the game I envisioned,'" he said "It's become so fast, but on the other hand I think a lot of the rules have become interpreted differently."

"I recall that if you dragged your pivot foot three inches it was a travel. If you got your hand anywhere below the side of the ball, it was a carry. Now with the spin dribbles and the things guards are doing today, they all carry the ball. I'm not sure, but I think in the rule book it says a pick is short of contact. A pick today is a block."

And how does Asquith feel about it?

"Because I'm still coaching and dealing with it, I accept it much better than I did 10, 12, 15 years ago," he said. "In my mind, I'm not sure it's made the game better in every respect."

On the opposite side, Asquith said, "Baseball has retained its integrity as much as any other sport. In terms of the mechanics of the game, baseball has stayed untouched in important areas over the years."

He added, "Golf has changed simply because of the equipment."

When asked his most memorable games, Asquith recalled two when he was an assistant football coach for the late Joe Annarella.

"When I was assisting Joe, we went down to Randolph and lost in an absolute quagmire. I remember an official losing his shoe in the end zone."

He also recalled a windy football game at Silver Creek where George Carter (who went on to play basketball for St. Bonaventure and then was an all-star in the American Basketball Association) of the hosts was punting.

That ball went up in the air about 75 feet and the wind was blowing so hard they lost 15 yards on the play," Asquith said.

Another memory was as boys' basketball coach.

"I remember beating Jamestown at Jamestown and that as a big thing for the boys from the country," Asquith said.

Now his basketball coaching is on the girls' junior varsity level and as an assistant for varsity coach Mark Petersen.

"Guys like him is why I've hung I there" Asquith said about Petersen. "He's a pleasure to work with and he's my kind of guy in that he's a student of every sport that he coaches. He really gets into it. He'll ask me for advice, but he knows more than I do."

Petersen knows plenty about Asquith.

"To find a way to describe working with this guy is hard to do," he said. "He's definitely an icon in the coaching world and the teaching world, that's the only way to describe it. He's one of my best friends in the world and I can't imagine my life without that guy in it."

But will there be more memories for Asquith after this school year?

"I know why I'm doing it, it's good for me personally," Asquith said about contemplating a 51st season of coaching. I guess the one thing that would make me say I've been here long enough is if I feel I am somehow out of touch or I feel like I'm not up to what I'm supposed to do. Then I will seriously consider it (retiring from coaching). Have I thought about it? Yeah, I have."

When asked how valuable Asquith has been to the Cassadaga Valley athletic program, Athletic Director Dan Massey said, "There are no words that can say it."

And he notes that Asquith personifies an old saying.

"We don't stop playing because we get old. We get old because we stop playing," Massey said, "and Art's never stopped playing."

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