Schwartz steps down as Barons’ head coach Collected 174 wins in 13 years at the helm

By on January 9, 2013

By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer

For Matt Schwartz, it was last summer that he really started noticing the schedule conflicts to a greater degree.

The schedules of his children and those of the Manheim Central boys soccer team that he coached were often over-lapping and pulling him in two different directions.

And the more Schwartz thought about it, the more he knew what needed to be done.

So shortly after Thanksgiving, the 38-year-old submitted his resignation to Manheim Central athletic director George Derbyshire as the head coach of the Barons. After 13 years at the helm, during which he compiled a career record of 174-90-7 and twice led the Manheim Central boys to the PIAA State Final Four, Schwartz is stepping aside to spend more time with his wife and their three children, ages eight and younger.

"I feel like if I say, ‘Well, it’s a matter of spending the time with the kids and all that kind of stuff,’ then I’m blaming the kids," Schwartz said. "And by any means, that’s not what it is. It was completely my decision … Especially during the summer, when I leave one of my kids’ events so that I can quickly go over to a (team) session and then try to get back to their swim meet without missing any events or as few of their events as possible, although they understand why, I can see the disappointment in their expression. That’s just one of a variety of things, but that’s one of the biggest is that I want to be able to be an active participant — not just even an observer — at some of that stuff. And in order to do it, I’ve got to start eliminating some things."

Make no mistake, it was not an easy decision for Schwartz, a former standout four-year starter for the Barons who earned Section MVP honors in 1991 and still holds the MC career scoring record with 79 goals. The fall of 2013 will be the first time since 1987 that he is not involved in highly competitive soccer. After graduating from Manheim Central in 1992, Schwartz played at national power Messiah College, where he started all four years, helped to lead the Falcons to the NCAA Division-III Tournament three times and finished eighth in program history in assists.

From there, Schwartz served on Pequea Valley’s coaching staff in 1996, then returned to his alma mater as an assistant for three years (1997-99) before taking over as the Barons’ head coach in 2000. His brothers, Aaron and Michael, eventually joined him as an assistant and press box announcer.

"I think one of the most exciting things for me was to be able to coach at my alma mater," said Schwartz, a health and physical education teacher at Manheim Central High School. "I could be very far off base by saying it, but I’d like to think that being an alum of the program, the players look at you a little different or recognize the pride that you as a coach have in the program because that’s the one that you played for. And it meant a lot to me to be able to direct players in the same program that I had played in and to be able to provide for them hopefully a meaningful soccer and life experience."

The MC boys certainly attained some lifetime memories in 2006, when they advanced to the PIAA State Double-A finals before suffering a 2-0 loss to South Park, and again in 2007, after reaching the State semi-finals, where they dropped a 2-0 defeat to Palmyra. Unfortunately, the Barons will never know if the outcome in 2007 could have been different with a healthy Kenzie Arment (All-State/East Regional All-American), who suffered a left knee injury in the quarterfinals.

"I think that team had everything that it needed to win," Schwartz recalled. "And we just lost a significant midfield piece in the quarter-final. We had guys that were capable. We just weren’t able to get the same type of thing going in that semi-final in 2007. But we were close that year."

Given the bond that Schwartz developed with his players, it could not have been easy to break the news to them when the students returned from Thanksgiving break. But he sensed a lot of maturity in the players by how they handled the surprising announcement.

"I kinda felt bad because I have a feeling that a lot of them came in expecting that we were going to be announcing what we were going to be doing for off-season training and such," Schwartz said. "Looking at their expressions, it was I guess you’d say a stunned silence. And I think they understood. We talked to them for awhile and they asked a couple questions, just in general based on what it meant for next year and if there was anything we could tell them related to timing for a new coach and that kind of stuff. But then as guys were leaving, there were general words of encouragement both directions."

One of his eight-year-old twin boys might have had a look of stunned silence as well when the news was broken at the Schwartzes dinner table. Schwartz’s two sons were starting to get more involved with the Barons’ soccer team in various respects, so he knows it will be an adjustment for them as well.

"My one son was not real happy with the decision," Schwartz said. "We were talking about it at dinner and he looked across the table and was like, ‘Why would you do that?,’ because they enjoyed going to practices and they were starting to be ball runners at games this year. At that moment, that’s what was on their mind as opposed to maybe the more frequent stops that I’m able to make at their practices or being able to be involved in their practices."

It also was an indication of the support that Schwartz’s wife and children gave to him during his time as the Barons’ skipper. With his obligations as a coach stretching over eight months of the year, Schwartz credits his family’s involvement as a big reason that he was able to coach as long as he did.

"My wife might as well have been an assistant with the input that she would have at home," Schwartz said. "She was a competitive athlete too. She played field hockey at Messiah and went to three Final Fours herself. So that competitive nature was well-ingrained at home and from that standpoint, she also understood what it took to be successful and she did a wonderful job holding down the fort."

Now Schwartz will have more of a hand in helping to hold down the fort. Certainly, he will still be involved with soccer as his children continue to play the sport. And he is fully aware that there will be days, particularly as the weather starts to turn toward autumn later this year, that he will miss not being at practice or preparing for a game.

In time, perhaps Schwartz will return to the sideline again. But for now, he is confident in his decision to step away.

"Every year, regardless of whether it’s a great year or a challenging year or a championship year or a sub-.500 year, there’s always going to be, ‘Well, we’ll get them next year,’" Schwartz said. "It’s a new season that we can try again. We wipe that slate clean. And as I told (the players), it’s not that way at home. I’ve got three kids and my wife and that roster doesn’t change. And I’ve got one season, so to speak, to try to set my kids up for the best end-of-season finish. I’ve got to set them up for long-term success as much as possible with one shot to do it … If I can’t give the players the time that I know they deserve, and at the same time give my family the time that they deserve, they’re both going to suffer for it." More SCHWARTZ, page B-8