Gravatt retires as CR coach

CAMDEN — Darrell Gravatt said you can think of his long coaching career as a rollercoaster ride.

“It’s been like a thrill ride at an amusement park,” he said. “Mostly, my rollercoaster went up.”

Darrell Gravatt

So it wasn’t easy for Gravatt to step down as Caesar Rodney High’s boys’ and girls’ soccer coaches this week. He’s been the Riders’ boys’ head coach for 24 seasons and CR’s girls’ coach for 22.

But the 58-year-old Caesar Rodney grad said he’s retiring with no regrets.

“I can’t coach forever and I have coached a long time,” said Gravatt. “I’ve been so blessed. The kids have been a blessing, the families, the community, the administration, my own family — everybody has been so supportive.

“I bleed blue and gold and I love the community. But you reach a point in your life where you say, you know what? Maybe it’s time to try something else. I’d just like to take it a little easier and maybe spend time watching other people coach and spend more time with my family just relaxing.

“I still love coaching,” he added. “It was an extremely difficult decision.”

The Riders had unprecedented success with both soccer programs under Gravatt. Along with being a perennial contender for the Henlopen Conference title, CR reached the DIAA state finals 11 times — seven times with the girls and four times with the boys.

This past fall, Gravatt’s last boys’ team finished 16-3, won the Henlopen crown and reached the Division I state title match before losing to Salesianum.

Darrell Gravatt

In the spring, the Riders’ girls went 14-4, captured the Henlopen title and fell to Padua in the Division I state semifinals.

CR athletic Bob Beron, who was an assistant coach for the boys’ program in past years, said Gravatt was an institution at the school.
Gravatt was also a successful head wrestling coach at Woodbridge High before spending 11 seasons as an assistant with the Riders in the sport.

“I viewed him as one of the coaching role models for the school — not just for the coaches but for the kids,” said Beron. “He’s impacted thousands and thousands of young men and women over the last 20-plus years. I view him as a role model for me as well.

“I tell you, he’s probably one of the most dedicated coaches that I’ve ever been around.

“The amount of time and commitment and prep that he puts in to that program, it’s unmatched. You’re not going to find a better coach that has the knowledge and experience in the state than Darrell.”

CR has started advertising for both coaching positions. The first practice day for spring sports this year is March 2 with the regular season beginning March 23.

Many schools in the state have the same head coach for both their boys’ and girls’ soccer programs. Beron said the school will interview candidates separately for the two jobs and see how it turns out.

“If it ends up being the same candidate that wins both positions, then so be it,” he said. “If it ends up being somebody different for each sport then so be it.

“I definitely expect that there’s going to be some interest out there. We’re anticipating that there’s going to be a nice pool of candidates.”

Gravatt met with players from both CR soccer programs earlier in the week to tell them his decision. He said he’s appreciated all the congratulations he’s gotten from throughout the community.

“Everybody has been so nice to me,” he said.

Gravatt knows there’s going to be moments when he wishes he was still coaching. Mostly, though, he said he’ll miss just working with the players.

“I have thousands of memories,” he said. “My favorite part was just the daily training sessions — and the relationships that you build with so many young people who still stay in touch with me. Those lifelong relationships are wonderful. That’s really the best part.

“I liked just being out there on the pitch with the kids, putting a drill together and maybe knocking it around with the kids. They let me be a part of it.”