Last week George Mason High School’s varsity boys soccer head coach Frank Spinello was named National High School Boys Soccer Coach of the Year for 2014 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
Two of his players – one former, one current – told the News-Press that they weren’t surprised to hear that news. Spinello said he was humbled by it.
“I feel honored and lucky to be surrounded by great people who make any award possible,” Spinello said. “My assistant coaches, Nathan Greiner and Bobby Penland, are amazing and make my job so much easier and are huge reasons for any personal accolades that I get…I know an individual award is only achieved due to having long term team success.”
Former and current players have been contacting Spinello since the news of the award spread.
“I hear from at least fifty former players after we win championships and have heard from even more after this award. To know that they are happy for any coaching awards I receive means so much to me, it has been overwhelming and humbling,” Spinello said.
“We consider Mason Soccer more than a program, it is an extended family. When the current team wins anything our alumni are always supportive. They laid the foundation for the program and take pride in the program, and that makes it so much more special.”
Mason’s senior goalkeeper Daniel Donovan is one of the players who have been in touch with Spinello in the past week. Donovan, a four-year varsity player for the Mustangs, said that his head coach is “very deserving” of the award.
“Out of all the amazing coaches at Mason I don’t know anybody who puts in as much work as he does. Not just during the season, but year round,” Donovan said.
“All year he’s checking in with us as far as grades, off-season workouts and during the season he takes trips to see opposing teams to make sure we’re well-prepared…I’m really glad that he got it.”
Spinello’s celebration of the news that he got the award is also a testament to the work ethic Donovan referenced. “I celebrated by having an off season conditioning and training session with this year’s prospects and returning players,” Spinello said.
There isn’t a ton of time to celebrate for Spinello and his gang. The Mustangs have won the last two Virginia High School League state championships for their division, so they’ll have a lot to defend when they step onto the pitch in a few months.
And they’ll have a lot of teams trying their hardest to knock them off and for good reason – last season they set Virginia state records in any division for goals scored (153) and goal differential (139).
Paul Darmstadter, a 2014 Mason graduate and former team captain who was vital in the Mustangs’ success over the last two seasons, is currently going to George Mason University part-time while playing for the D.C. United U-18 Academy team. He said that Spinello is a great mentor beyond soccer.
“He gave me a lot of advice on my college search and what he thought was best for me,” Darmstadter said.
“He also would include us in a lot of things outside of school whether it was potential soccer opportunities like coaching youth teams and just helping out in the community. He really wanted us to be active in the community.”
Among the achievements noted in the press release announcing the coaches of the year was the Mustangs’ 3.5 grade point average last year.
Both Donovan and Darmstadter talked about Spinello’s emphasis on academics outside of eligibility requirements.
He said he’s so involved in his player’s lives on and off the field because of how much the team means to him.
“Mason soccer is one of the most precious things in my life. The best part of my day is being with the team, whether it is game day or a practice. I love the fact that many of our former players have gone into coaching and have had success at it,” Spinello said.
“I think that if the game has been important to you and given you joy, then you should give something back to it, to pass that passion on to others in some way. I have forged great and lasting friendships with coaches, players and parents that would have never been possible without Mason Soccer. Mason Soccer is family to me.”