By Michael Gorman
Falling leaves lines the edges of Yarmouth High field Oct. 30. It was an appropriate image for a couple of reasons: this was, after all, the final soccer game of the season, a makeup game between the lady Vikings and Lockeport.
But this sign of the changing seasons was significant for an even more appropriate reason — this was Richard desVinges's final game as coach of the Vikings. After 27 years patrolling the sidelines at YCMHS, the man who — like Chuck Smith and Ginny Smith — is synonymous in the area with his sport, has decided it is time to let someone else run the show.
It was 1975 when desVinges debuted as the coach of the boys' team at YCMHS. In 1985 he took a break to spend more time with his growing family but eventually found his way back. In later years he's coached the girls' team as well as indoor leagues and clinics and summer league teams. "It's time to let some of the younger ones take over," he said when asked about his decision to stop, a decision desVinges called "difficult." He said as he walked up and down the sidelines during last week's game he had a good understanding of what some of his own players were feeling. "For the first time I was able to relate to all of the Grade 12ers who are always very emotional because it's their last year of soccer," he said. "It certainly felt a little bit strange knowing I wouldn't be back there as a coach."
John Gallant, the Athletics Director at YCMHS, said desVinges will be missed. Gallant stated the obvious when he talked about how big of a role school sports play in the lives of some students, but he said there was no way to overstate the value of desVinges's contribution to YCMHS and its study body. "Without volunteers like Richard, we wouldn't be able to put the programs that we have in place here in school on," he said.
Gallant said replacing desVinges wouldn't be easy because of how committed he was to the sport. "Some people aren't ready and willing to put the work in (that's) involved in (coaching) a school team," he said.
Twenty-seven years is a long time to do anything. No one would have blamed desVinges if he made this decision five, or even 10 years ago. But he said coaching has always made sense to him and he's always felt like he could offer something to area players. "It's one of the things I do best, I think," he said. "I like sharing it with the young people and I just totally enjoy doing it."
His players agree. Kayla Muise, a team captain this year for Yarmouth, said the players have always appreciated desVignes's perfect mix of knowledge, focus and fun that he brings to practices and games. "He likes to share it with us and teach us the right way to do things — instead of the wrong way," she said with a laugh.
It's difficult for desVinges to zero in on particular highlights from such a long tenure. Asked to name a few, he eventually settles on the year he took the YCMHS boys' team to the championship game at provincials many years ago.
But desVinges can also take pride in knowing that the massive growth of soccer — the game he loves so dearly — in Yarmouth has a lot to do with his relentless pursuit to educate and encourage area players.
One of the area's biggest strides is having knowledgeable and capable coaches at every level, he said. "The girls are now coming into high school better equipped skill-wise to take on the challenge of these regional games. "I can't say (the game's growth) was a surprise, because it grew so gradually . . . But I'm very pleased to see that we've come this far."
And even though he is retiring as a coach, it is likely desVinges will continue to be an active supporter of soccer in Yarmouth County. He said as players continue to improve and develop and the game continues to grow, the next step is creating an indoor facility to keep players on par with others around the province. "There's always room for growth," he said. "We've got to step up."