BERLIN — After 30 years, 323 wins and numerous conference championships, Worcester Prep’s boys’ varsity soccer coach this week announced he was leaving the sidelines to focus on his classroom teaching. Tom Westcott reached several milestones on the soccer field at Worcester Prep, including his 300th win recorded last October. Last week, the Mallards won their third straight Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference (ESIAC) championship, beating Salisbury Christian, 1-0, in the title game. A day earlier, Westcott told his players of his decision to step down as head coach of the team.
Westcott first came to Worcester Prep, then Worcester Country School, way back in 1976 as a physical education teacher and baseball and softball coach. After briefly leaving in 1980 to consider a career as a salvage diver, he returned to Worcester Prep in 1981 as a classroom teacher and later took over the boys’ varsity soccer program. The Advanced Placement Biology teacher has been at Worcester Prep ever since, impacting generations of young Mallards both in the classroom and on the fields.
Westcott reflected on his past and what the future holds for him. The following are excerpts from that conversation:
Q. What brought about the decision to step down as varsity soccer coach now?
A. I was knocking it back and forth and I figured it was the right time. I’m not going to do a Brett Favre and come back. It wasn’t one thing in particular, just some stuff that I’ve been thinking about. You get home later and I feel sorry for [wife] Terry having to hold dinner and taking care of everything. I love riding my bike so much and I’m really pinched here at school because I can only ride on my free periods. So, it was the right time. I empathize with the boys because some of them live an hour away and I’m only a half-hour away. It’s a tremendous commitment for them, and for me to a large degree.
Q. When did you tell the players?
A. The day before our last game. I had decided a couple weeks before. I didn’t want to not tell them, but I also didn’t want to tell them and have them dwell on it, so I just told them after the last practice.
Q. What was their reaction?
A. I saw a lot of faces kind of drop. It was unexpected. I actually mentioned something to a couple of the seniors about a week before, but they hadn’t said anything.
Q. You’ve said the retirement as soccer coach will allow you to focus more on classroom instruction. Is there a reason for the timing of the decision?
A. There are going to be some changes to the college boards and they haven’t released the changes yet, so that’s kind been on the back of my mind. I want to be sure I give my kids the best possible education they can get. I was hired here as a teacher, not a coach.
Q. You actually spent four years at Worcester Prep before leaving, only to return later. What prompted the decision to leave the school the first time?
A. I actually quit after the graduation class of 1980. I had the wild idea I was going to be a salvage diver. I had everything lined up. I was going to Santa Barbara Community College to get a two-year degree in diving. I resigned during the spring of 1980. At that point, I was 28 and I was lined up to go and about the end of the summer, I talked to my advisor and he asked me a question that really changed me 180 degrees.
Q. What did the advisor tell you to discourage the salvage diver dream?
A. He asked me why I was getting into this at such a late age. He said my body can only take so much of the pressure of diving and most people that got into salvage diving were out of it by the time they reached my age. I did the math and realized I’ll be in my mid- to upper-30s and will be looking for another job.
Q. After you quit teaching and coaching to pursue the diving career, how did you end up back at Worcester?
A. I worked for Danny Goodman’s father in Snow Hill selling clothes. I did that for a year. He told me, ‘look, if something comes up, you don’t have to give me even a day’s notice.’ Paula and Franklin Lynch called me in the spring of 1981 and asked me if I would be interested in coming back and I said yes. They said it won’t be in physical education, and I told them I don’t care what I do, so that’s how I ended up in the classroom.
Q. You’re success as a coach is clearly documented, but your work as a teacher might be your greatest accomplishment. Does one complement the other?
A. I just enjoyed getting into the classroom because you can see the kids every day. I think I was learning on the fly, but it was a challenge for me and I enjoyed it. It just turned out. I didn’t go to school to teach in the classroom, but what I started out doing is what I’m not doing any more.
Q. Have you thought ahead to a life without coaching soccer?
A. [Athletic Director] Matt O’Hare asked me how it feels. I told him like any other year, the season is over. Ask me next Aug. 15. I’m going to miss that interaction with the boys outside the classroom because I get to see them in a different light and they get to see me in a different light. I think my coaching is similar to my teaching. You have to do the best you can, but have fun while you’re doing it. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s just drudgery, and it’s the same in the classroom.