by Jim Riggs
Second Retirement For Anderson
In 1992, girls soccer was established as a varsity sport at Jamestown High School. The largest school in Chautauqua County became the last to have the sport, which was approved by the school board the previous December. In the spring of 1992, money was raised, players were found and everything was in place for the sport to start in the fall, except for one thing – a coach.
No one in the Jamestown school system had applied for it, so Athletic Director Kay Gould offered it to Anderson at the end of June.
“You’ve got to be crazy,” Anderson stated was his reaction in this column on September 19, 1992. “I questioned whether I was qualified.”
But the third grade teacher at Ring Elementary School had coached in Jamestown Area youth Soccer (JAYS), in the Boys & Girls Club indoor league for seven years, as well as a travel league. So he accepted, but noted, “If she’s not happy with the way the program is going, I’m going to step aside and let her put someone in so that the program will grow.”
That was 15 years ago and the program has grown to be one of the best in Western New York. But at last week’s year-end awards dinner, he announced he was stepping down after compiling a 143-105-29 record.
Looking back to Gould’s request to coach in 1992, Anderson recalled this week, “I said I wasn’t really interested and she said, ‘Would you do it until we can find a real guy?’ Well, I guess it must be the real guy never showed up.”
After recording a 1-9-1 record in 1992, the Lady Red Raiders were 10-6-2 the next year. Since 1992, Jamestown has had only five more losing seasons and 10 times it has hit double figures in victories, led with a 16-4 record in 1995.
“I didn’t expect it to be 15 years, just a couple,” Anderson said about his stint of high school coaching. “I anticipated there might be a phys. ed. teacher that got hired within the district that would want to take this over.”
But soon he was happy no one was found.
“I never anticipated how much enjoyment that job was going to bring me,” Anderson said.
At the time, in addition to teaching third grade, he spent his spare time (and still does) as a member of the auto racing crew of Dick Barton. His involvement in soccer came in the mid 1980s when Anderson registered his son, Reed, to play in JAYS and he volunteered to coach when asked.
“I was going to come to the game anyway to watch Reed play,” Anderson said was why he volunteered to coach. “I didn’t know one thing about it. I didn’t even know the rules.”
Over the span of about seven years, he had learned about soccer on the job while coaching in JAYS, the Boys & Girls Club and travel league soccer.
Then he took the big step with the JHS girls job in 1992.
“At first I was kind of feeling my way,” Anderson said. “I really wasn’t confidant in what I was doing. There’s a lot of things to do in getting a program up and running. And we weren’t very successful that first season and I was thinking, ‘Man, this job is a lot of work.’ But by the end of the second season we improved dramatically and I could see we were making progress and that I was kind of getting my arms around the job.”
But not only was Anderson new to high school coaching, but the program was also new and so were the players, including 10 freshman.
“That was a bonus to me that I didn’t have to follow in anybody’s footsteps, so there were no preconceived notions from the players,” he said.
The Lady Red Raiders only win the first year came against Fredonia and a lone tie with Olean.
“The thing I remember most from that first year was playing against Allegany,” Anderson said. “They were an absolute powerhouse and still are. They absolutely killed us. It was 8-1 and it could have been any number they wanted to make it. We were so bad in comparison to Allegany that year, it was remarkable. For a long time I used to measure our progress against Allegany.”
But what led to a huge turnaround to a 10-6-2 record in 1993?
“It was our second time through,” Anderson said. “The players had a better idea of what it took to play at a high school level and I had a better idea of what needed to be done from the coaching standpoint. You’ve got to remember that prior to that I had only coached JAYS-type soccer.”
Jamestown, then a Class A school, was playing in the Chautauqua - Cattaraugus Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CCIAC) with local schools that were mostly Class B and C and the Lady Red Raiders finished first in 1995. But in 1997, like all other JHS sports teams, the girls soccer squad began competing in Division I of the Erie County Interscholastic Conference (ECIC) against Buffalo-area schools of the same size. And also with long soccer traditions.
“Now everybody in the league is like Allegany,” Anderson recalled about the move. “That was a huge step for us to go from the CCIAC to the ECIC. It’s hard to explain the difference in play between those two leagues. It’s so much more physical.”
But the Lady Red Raiders held their own and recorded a 7-4-1 records in their first year in the ECIC.
“We were ready at that point,” Anderson said. “We had developed some good players.”
Jamestown best finish in ECIC Division 1 has been in second place.
After more than a dozen years of high school coaching, Anderson began thinking about giving it up, particularly when he retired from teaching in 2005.
“When I retired from teaching, I was planning on giving up both,” he said. “What swung my decision was I didn’t feel there was anybody that would be able to take the team over. Because it’s been my baby, I didn’t want to give it up until I felt comfortable it was going to continue in a way that I would be happy to see.”
So for the past two years Anderson coached the Lady Red Raiders after retiring from teaching, but coming into his season he made the decision it would be his last. However, he didn’t say anything about retiring to his team because he didn’t want his players distracted. Apparently they weren’t as they finished with a 11-5-2 record overall and 5-3-1 in ECIC Division 1.
Then he made his announcement last week.
“I feel now that there are people who will be able to step right in and take over,”: Anderson said. “The program will never skip a beat and probably within a few months no one will ever remember that I was there.”
I would doubt that.