Time Out: Nov. 9, 2011

“Kick it to the corner.”

Margaretville alumni and his former girls’ soccer players from around the country, found themselves fondly looking back to their high school years as they learned that legendary Blue Devil soccer coach Dan Cohen had passed away last Wednesday. The former Blue Devil soccer gals were flooded with the quips, the jokes, the stories, and the memories that so typified their warm and fuzzy former coach.

It has been said that sport builds good character; yet, in reality, good characters are the foundation of positive experiences in sport. Dan Cohen was one of those good characters.

Dan had a heart and spirit as big as those found in the Newfoundland dogs he loved so much. People often joke that dogs take on the characteristics of their masters. With Dan, that was true. Like his prize “Newfies” the size of Dan’s influence on people was enormous. Dan was steady and consistent, calm in disposition and manner, and, oh, so loyal.

Tremendous run
Of course, part of Dan’s story was the legendary success of the soccer teams he coached. Cohen was a legend in his time and his Blue Devil squads from 1998 through 2002 orchestrated perhaps the most impressive soccer run, girls’ or guys’, in the history of Class D, Section IV soccer.

Dan’s 1998 and 1999 Blue Devil squads were Section IV champions. His ’99 team won the school’s first ever New York State Regional Championship, advancing to the state championship game, a contest they lost by a single goal.

Some people forget how Dan’s girls came from behind in a wild shootout to upset undefeated Stamford in the Section IV semifinals the following year. But, no Margaretville sports fan will ever forget Cohen’s Blue Devils’ New York State Championship two seasons later.

Far more important than the wins and the championships was the man. As a coach, Dan proved a lot could be accomplished if you don’t care who gets the credit. Always unassuming, always in the background, Dan quietly left his footprint on our local high school sports history. More importantly, Dan left his imprint on the spirits and the hearts of the girls he coached.

Mentor and coach
Dan Cohen was a great mentor coach. Dan focused on the positive, preparing his teams to do what they could do well expertly and not worrying so much about the things that caused them difficulty. Coach Cohen taught more than soccer. Dan taught values and life living, always emphasizing there was a right way to play the game, to control your responses, and to conduct yourself.

Coaches teach. Coaches guide. Coaches care. Talk to the girls who played on Dan’s teams and they will recall him putting an arm around their shoulder and encouraging, supporting, or boosting their morale. They’ll talk about the incredible camaraderie they felt as members of Dan’s teams, a feeling rarely duplicated in other facets of their lives.

Coach Cohen made his girls feel older, feel special, feel more substantial. That sense of being matters long after the final horn sounds.

For all the girls he coached for some 25 years, a thank you: “Thank you, Coach Cohen for being a great coach. Your presence and guidance in my life holds a special place in my heart as an athlete and a person. For this and for so much more thanks, Coach Cohen.