Long-time coach Coveleski to enter Hall of Fame

John Coveleski knows he’s a pretty lucky guy.

He knows that not many people get to spend their lives doing something they love.

In his case, that love has always been coaching sports.

“When you’re 55 years old, a lot of people wake up to their job and go, ‘Oh, I’ve got five more years until I retire,’” said Coveleski.

“But I wake up in the morning and go, ‘Oh man, we have a big game today.’ I’m excited that there’s a big game — and I’m excited for the kids. … The fact that I’m excited at 65 is a pretty awesome experience.”

John Coveleski

So maybe it’s only fitting that Coveleski, who will be inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame on May 16, really can’t pick just one sport as his favorite to coach.

“That’s a good question,” said the 65-year-old Coveleski. “To me, it’s all the same game. I like them all.”

His coaching resume backs him up.

Coveleski has coached football, lacrosse, basketball and baseball and he’s done it at both the high school level (Caesar Rodney, Dover, Appoquinimink) and college level (Delaware State, Wesley College, Delaware Tech).

A large part of Coveleski’s 42-year career has been spent as the successful football and boys’ lacrosse at CR, where he led both programs to state championship games.

A 1969 Rehoboth High grad, Coveleski says his love of being involved in a little bit of everything always goes back to playing for his dad, Frank. The elder Coveleski, who went into the Delaware Sports Hall of Fame in 1982, coached three sports at Rehoboth.

“That was just a way of life for me,” said John. “In those days (in the 1960s), you have a coach and he was the coach.

“For me, growing up in high school, we had classes of 25 to 30. If everybody didn’t play, you didn’t have a team. So we would play football, basketball and baseball. And on Wednesdays, we’d cancel baseball practice, hop on a bus and go to a track meet. The baseball team was the track team, too — it wasn’t optional.”

These days, Coveleski spends most of his coaching time with lacrosse. He helps out at both DelTech and Appoquinimink as well as working with Kent County Parks & Recreation’s youth programs.

When you boil them down, Coveleski said the essence of sports are mostly all the same.

“I always say, anyway you cut it, it’s so similar,” he said. “Especially ‘goal’ sports. Whether it’s basketball, lacrosse or soccer. … It’s a little bit different skills, but it’s really the same game. It’s a lot of the same principles and footwork.”

Coveleski takes pride that many of his former players have gone on to coach, too.

And he’s always taken a lot of pride in following in his dad’s footsteps as a coach. Frank Coveleski died in 1977.

Now John is following his father into the Hall of Fame.

Coveleski remembers years ago, when his sons were playing at CR, going over to look at his father’s plaque at Cape Henlopen High’s Legend Stadium. It was toward the end of Coveleski’s career at CR.

“I’m looking at these numbers and I’m like, ‘Holy mackerel,’” he said. “‘I’ve coached six years longer than him right now.’ And I didn’t even know it.

“I’d rather go out and coach than (play) golf,” Coveleski added. “I’d rather be around young kids. … You have to do two things: You keep their feet moving in practice and you put more deposits in the bank than withdrawals.

“I’ve been tough on kids but they know I’ve put a lot of deposits in them. Once in a while you’ve got to take a withdrawal out if you want to push them.”

Hillman shines at meet

Last Saturday was one of the dates Sarah Hillman had circled on her calendar.

With Delaware hosting the Colonial Athletic Association track & field championships, the Polytech High grad wanted to be at her best for the event.

Hillman delivered. Not only did the Blue Hens’ junior win the women’s discus title but she also broke the conference record with a throw of 186-feet, two-inches.

The Dover native also placed fourth in the shot put with a distance of 45-11.25. Her performance earned Hillman the CAA’s Most Outstanding Field Performer award.

“This has been my dream since I’ve been here,” Hillman said about winning a league title. “I’ve just been trying to get better and better every year and hopefully that will continue at regionals (next week) and hopefully at nationals. I had a lot more confidence this year.

“Last year (the CAA meet) was rough because I didn’t make the finals, but this year I had the home-field advantage. My whole family was here and all the throwers on the team have been great. I’ve had such great support from the entire team and that means the world to me.”

“Our Blue Hens did a great job this weekend,” said Delaware coach Wendy McFarlane-Smith. “We had the right energy at the right time. Congratulations to Sarah Hillman on her elite performance in the discus.  We are so proud to have an athlete earn a conference title and set a conference record in her event.”

Hillman nows heads to the NCAA Division I regionals with the seventh-best discus throw in the country this season.

Also in the meet, Caesar Rodney High grad Jeanette Bendolph placed second in the 800 meters (2:10.63) for Delaware.

Odds & ends

  • Smyrna High running back Leddie Brown has verbally committed to West Virginia.

Brown, who helped the Eagles win their second straight DIAA Division I state crown after transferring to Smyrna before last season, thanked his mother for getting him to where he is. She “made sure that the talent she saw in me was harvested so I could be at my greatest potential,” Brown wrote on his Twitter page.

  • The Henlopen Conference Northern Division baseball race is still up in the air with the top five teams all having two or three conference losses. Dover (8-2 in conference, 11-3 overall) plays a big game at Sussex Tech (6-3, 8-5) today at 4:15 p.m.

The Senators are 2-1 against the other top-three teams: Smyrna, Polytech and Cape Henlopen.

Speaking of the Senators, their coach Dave Gordon won his 100th career game last Tuesday. Gordon has been the coach at his alma mater since 2011.

  • It looks like the Henlopen Conference championship game in boys’ lacrosse will be played on May 19 at the Delaware Turf Complex. North champion Caesar Rodney will face the South winner at 7 p.m.
  • Tight end Charles Scarff said the offense that Delaware is now running under new football coach Danny Rocco is modeled after the New England Patriots’ system.

“Coach (Matt) Simon keeps telling us that a lot of college teams aren’t going to do what we’re doing because it’s NFL caliber stuff,” said Scarff, referring to the Blue Hens’ new offensive coordinator.

“It’s going to take a little while to get it down but we’re definitely in the pass game more. We’re going to do what every team in the country does on third down — we’re going to be spreading out and throwing it. We’re not going to be running it when it’s third and eight.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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