Old Lyme's Gleason (girls' soccer), St. Germain (baseball) put the final stamp on coaching careers

·5 min read

Jun. 11—For two guys retiring from coaching at the same place, Old Lyme High School, where both have given their souls and profess to bleed blue in accordance with the school colors, neither Randy St. Germain nor Paul Gleason have much use for the word "retirement."

"It's been a little rough since the season's ended," said St. Germain, Old Lyme's baseball coach for the last 17 seasons. "It's been a part of my life for 25 years (several at the middle school and junior varsity level). I just turned 50. The word 'retirement' has really bothered me. It just has."

Gleason, meanwhile, the colorful Old Lyme girls' soccer coach who won four straight state championships from 2015-18 — all the while reciting pertinent Latin phrases and identifying indigenous plants for passersby — was afraid that by using the word "retirement," it might keep him from being able to volunteer his time with the Old Lyme boys' program where his daughter Ally is the head coach.

"I don't believe in retirement," the 69-year-old Gleason said. "If Ally wants me to give her a hand, I'll give her a hand. ... I would have loved to have kept going. My blood is blue."

Gleason received the advice on which he built his coaching career when he was in grade school at St. Joseph School in Bristol. It came from Sister St. Maria, who introduced him to the Latin phrase primus inter pares, meaning "first among equals."

"It's always been my motto," Gleason said Thursday. "First among equals. You try your best. That's the only thing you can do, try your best. Everybody's equal; you have to be the best of that."

St. Germain's role model was his high school baseball coach, Tom Suchanek, from Greenfield (Mass.) High School. Suchanek still coaches at Greenfield, celebrating his 48th season this year.

"He taught me everything I knew," St. Germain said. "A great man in my life growing up for sure. He took me under his wing. I painted with him during the summer and now I own my own painting business. He was a role model for me. ... The only thing I ever really asked from the kids was that they give me 100% and they learn how to accept personal responsibility. Those are my two biggest things."

Old Lyme athletic director Hildie Heck was faced with a daunting list of coaching hires she needs to make this summer, saying Thursday that the list has grown to eight, including varsity and junior varsity positions. Valley Regional/Old Lyme football coach Tim King announced Sunday that he will retire after 24 seasons.

"He loves the kids and he loves coaching the kids. We all love Paul," Heck said of Gleason, who coached at the high school level for nine seasons but was the middle school coach for a decade before that. "I appreciate all the time and effort he's put into the program. I know how much it takes to coach. (Paul and Ally Gleason, a 2002 Old Lyme grad and former assistant under her dad) put their stamp on the district and the sport of soccer."

Heck called St. Germain "another staple of coaches that are leaving."

Gleason was named The Day's inaugural All-Area Coach of the Year for girls' sports for the 2018-19 school year, with the Wildcats having won their fourth straight Class S state championship. Old Lyme reached the final for a fifth straight season in 2019. For the run of four state championships, Gleason had all-state and All-New England selection Mya Johnson.

"I didn't have Mya playing on my team," St. Germain said with a laugh. "I would've taken Mya in a second."

St. Germain coached the Old Lyme baseball team to a Class S state championship berth in 2006 and to five state semifinal bids (2005-06, 2008, 2013, 2016). He coached sons Cooper (Class of 2016) and Eli (Class of 2019) and will see daughter Tessa graduate from Old Lyme on Friday night. St. Germain's wife Kristen is the principal at Wheeler High School.

"I always knew I wanted to coach," said St. Germain, a former shortstop. "I used to work all the camps with my high school coach. I just loved the game so much. ... I love the kids. If you talk to anyone who coaches, it's the kids. I've been pretty fortunate. I just felt like it was time."

St. Germain said one of the things he's been most thankful for is the close-knit bond between the coaches at Old Lyme, all of whom have given him advice and cheered him on as the seasons wore on.

"It was always great listening to their stories," St. Germain said.

Ally Gleason, meanwhile, said she originally signed her dad up as a coach for her Old Lyme town team without his knowledge. He went on to form a club team at the youth level called the "Killer Bees." Later, Ally Gleason said, Paul never cut a player at the middle school level.

"What people don't see is the type of coach he is. You don't see what he does off the field," Ally Gleason said. "He's constantly reading. Constantly watching soccer. Constantly talking about it with people. One of the best things about his coaching style is he works with people one-on-one based on who they are as people, what they're interested in ... letting them know they're important and they mean something and they have a family here.

"I've learned everything from him. Absolutely everything is from him."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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