Legendary coach Mr. LaSpada, retires from teaching

Coach+LaSpada+during+a+boys+soccer+game

Normany Studio

Coach LaSpada during a boys’ soccer game

Claire Taylor, Staff Writer

Mr. LaSapda is retiring after being employed in the Somerset School Hills District for 47 years. His retirement becomes effective April 1st, 2023 as confirmed at the Board of Education Regular meeting on December 14, 2022.  He worked at Bernards High School until 1989 and then moved to Bernardsville Middle School where he started working as a gym teacher. The Bernards Sports system would not be what it is today without him. 

Coach LaSpada has coached over 1000 players. Over the years he coached girls’ spring track and wrestling for 15 years at Bernards while also being an assistant coach for the wrestling team for 30 years at North Hunterdon High School. He started the boy’s soccer program in 1976,  coached three high school-level sports, ran programs like soccer camps, worked with the town’s Recreation Department, and coached club teams.  Throughout the years he has met many people and coached “more than he could count.” He has coached the BHS boy’s soccer team for 44 years.  

This past soccer season the boys’ team won the Division Championship. Under Coach LaSpada’s reign, they have won the Division Championship 4 years in a row. he led the team to 9 Conference Divisions, the most recent being this past season, 9 State Sectional Group titles, 6 State Group titles, 1 County, 2 Central Jersey Group, 4 Colonial Hills conference, and 1 SCIAA in 1990. 

LaSpada’s teams are built on the players’ character and pep talks. LaSpada instills in his players, “… qualities [of]respect, work ethic, accountability, character, responsibility, etc. Another philosophy that [he] [passed] on with [his]coaching is not what you can do for yourself, but what you can do for your team.”

LaSpada was not born a coach. He learned from past coaches in his life who inspired him to be a better player while also shaping his coaching skills. He mentions the coaches by name, 

“My wrestling coach, Joel Melitski, Jerry Keller, my Marine Corps physical fitness coach, as well as my cross country coach, Ed Mather. Two coaches that also made an impact on my coaching are Bob Mount and Mark Wetmore. Mark who was not only a co-coach but a classmate of mine as well.”

Fin Spitaleri 24’ has been playing soccer for LaSpada since Freshman year and has many memories on the team. One of his most memorable memories is, “Beating Pingry at their home field in the semi-finals of counties. In all of his years of coaching, it was only the second time the Bernards soccer team had beaten Pingry at Pingry’s home field, and even more special was the fact that we had won in PK’s following hours of Laspada making us practice them. It was quite the highlight for him and the team, and an amazing moment to be a part of.”

Class of 21’ Captain Will Luik spent 3 years as captain for LaSpada. He continues his soccer career at D3 Washington and Lee University.  He said, “So as a three-time captain, I became very close with LaSpada. He would call me consistently to talk about the team— who should play, what drills should we run, etc. When I was first named captain I thought “what was this crazy man doing calling me all the time? who am I to know anything about running a team? I’m just an underclassman?”… however, I realized that LaSpada respected my opinion and wanted the decisions of the team to be democratic. It was extremely empowering at a young age to realize that my voice and opinion matter and hold value. Thanks to LaSpada [this] is something that I can carry over into any aspect of my life; from college to the corporate world. LaSpada was a caring coach, and that is probably why he was a successful one as well. People played their hearts out for him because there was such a positive player-coach relationship. 

Will Luik captured the most important contribution LaSpada has made,

“He had such a profound obsession not only for the sport itself but also for watching each and every player succeed on and off the field. From writing this maybe I have learned my greatest lesson so far from Laspata: passion is a prerequisite for success.”