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LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — For Ron Bauer, Sullivan West’s veteran track and football coach, home is where the heart is.
In 1960, he graduated from Delaware Valley Central School. After getting a degree from SUNY Cortland in 1966, he returned to his high school alma mater as a social studies teacher and coach. In the wake the 2000 three-way merger that created the Sullivan West Central School District from Delaware Valley, Jeffersonville-Youngsville and Narrowsburg, he continued to teach social studies and coach his chosen sports at Sullivan West.
In 2019, Bauer was still in the classroom and out on the fields of play, coaching Bulldogs footballers and champion thin clads.
During his high school career at Delaware Valley, he anchored the slot of defensive back on the football squad. In track, he competed in the long jump and 4x100 meter as a freshman and ran the mile and mile-and-a-half as a junior. He was tabbed league champion at 4:52, and recalled his best race was in 1959 during a 4x800 meter.
He was offered a track scholarship at Le Moyne College, a private Jesuit institution of higher learning in Syracuse, NY. “But I really liked football, so I went to SUNY Cortland,” Bauer recalled, adding that he played “a little lacrosse” in college.
He started teaching at Delaware Valley in 1966, back when LBJ was president, gas cost 32 cents a gallon, the mini skirt was raising hemlines along with a few eyebrows and the television series “Star Trek” grabbed some headlines. Of course, there were large-scale protests of the Vietnam War erupting across the nation, so he was teaching a new course on Asian African studies.
Sullivan West’s 2016 yearbook paid homage to Bauer with a full page spread titled “50 Years of Coaching.” Athletic director David Franskevicz was quoted, “Amassing countless championships at the league, section and state levels, Coach Bauer still carries the same winning attitude drive that he had 50 years ago.”
Bauer’s accomplishments as a varsity football coach include championship teams at Delaware Valley (1966, 1968, 1970-71), championship teams at Jeff-Youngsville (1981-83, 1985). The teams of ’71 and ’83 were undefeated. His football teams took the brass ring as Section IX champs in 1991-1995, 1997-98, and were named division champs in 1991, 1993-94 and 1998. In 1995, he was named Section IX Coach of the Year.
Bauer has posted an impressive record as a varsity track and field coach, with 33 winning seasons (never below third place); Western Sullivan League (WSL) champions (1971, 1973, 1982, 1993-94); sectional champs (1971, 1973, 1982, 1987-88, 1993-94, 1998); and sectional runners-up (1989-92, 1996-97).
In the arena of track and field, as of last season he boasted a total of 59 state finalists and had coached four state champions “prior to Mike Mullally and that group,” eight National Junior Olympic finalists, two High School All-Americans and nine NCAA Collegiate National Finalists.
In addition, Bauer has had scholar athletes compete in the Pan American Games, Mobil Meet, Millrose Games and the 1988 Olympic qualifying meet.
According to the authors of the 2016 yearbook, some of his favorite motivational ‘Yogisms’ over the decades have included, “You can either guard the quarterback or guard the water bottle,” “Do you want the long hill?” “You need to stop Mickey Mousing around,” “You got the cans and the can’ts” and “You have to do it from the gut!”
Last year, Bauer saw Sullivan West’s premier track star Mike Mullally piled up the gold at sectionals, all the way up to the states, and eventually a ride to West Point as a cadet. This season, he praised the efforts of both the boys’ and girls’ track and field teams, singling out the performances of Samantha “Sam” Becker, Grace Gaebel and Tallula Gann for special recognition.
In a local version of breaking news, it was just announced that Bryce Maopolski, the Bulldogs main contender in the grueling steeplechase, was named a winner of the state’s 2019 Positive Athlete Award for Cross Country, and along with the other recipients will be recognized on the field at a New York Mets game on Tuesday, July 23.
Bauer shared, from his perspective, other standouts from the gridiron and track and field: Collin Hauschild, Alan Sipple, Mike Stauch, Nick Graby, Bill Graby, Ryan Erlwein, Matt Buddenhagen, Colin Seidl, Fred Arullano, Morgan Hawkins, and Harry Knight.
In one of those times that make coaching seem worth the effort, Bauer said that Stauch, a state track and field Hall of Famer, recently stopped in to say, “Thanks, Coach!”
“I’ve had a lot of good athletes, but what I liked about Mike was his attitude. He was my first champion at the state level at the Empire State Games,” said Bauer.
Speaking of the changes in high school athletes over the years, since the WSL has passed into history and Sullivan County schools now complete with ones in Orange County as part of the OCIAA, he said, “The biggest change I’ve seen are the families, they are not what they used to be. Don’t get me wrong, there are still very good families… so many families are broken up,” but, on the flip side, there are a “lot of good kids” whose folks support them all the way, in some cases running alongside them during practice or cheering them on from the sidelines.
He noted that if a program is doing well, citing track and field as a prime example, they sign up for a team, remarking, “kids turn out.”
On the subject of football, Bauer addressed the controversial topic of players sustaining concussions due to head injuries, and what’s being done to curtail it.
“The thing that is hurting football right now is the bad publicity about concussions… I’ve got some kids who want to play, but the parents say no,” he said, noting that he just finished a series of online courses and clinics designed to teach coaches better ways of avoiding improper tackling, which, is his view, can lead to head injuries.
“If you teach proper techniques with your tackling, like hitting with your shoulder, not your head… If you’re driving through the guy instead of letting him stop you, driving you backwards, that’s using good techniques,” said Bauer, citing the Seattle Seahawks defensive strategy, designed to limit helmet-to-helmet contact. “Not spearing the kid, and conditioning is the key, aiming for the hip, not taking the guy straight on tackling from the center out.”
In essence, Bauer’s coaching philosophy of football (assisted at Sullivan West last year by Travis Roeder) is like what he learned in high school (similar to this sports scribblers’ experiences at a couple of prep schools), in that old-school rules are best. “When I learned football, I learned to tackle with my shoulder. Now we’re going back to what I learned years ago, and some of the old ideas are not that bad,” he said.
In the realm of Sullivan West’s track and field program, Bauer is assisted by Josef Seidl, Kelly Schadt-Kelly and Dee Maopolski, as they divide up the duties, each specializing in specific events.
But make no bones about it, Bauer was still firmly at the helm after 54 years and counting, as the “old-school rules” of coaching that still rule the day.
“I like to see a kid go out and give 100% effort. Have that kid walk off the field, whether it’s track and field or football with the feeling ‘I gave it my best effort,’” said Bauer.
Asked for a thumbnail sketch of his coaching philosophy, and by extension his classroom, Bauer replied, “I give it my all, if they walk off the field feeling they did their best… that’s my philosophy, period.”
What are the takeaways from sports for today’s student athletes? “In football, it’s learning to take a hit and bounce back from it, and in track, it’s a lot about conditioning… You can’t say I didn’t get a good pitch, or the guy didn’t rebound for me,” said Bauer.
In track, he added, the competitors are, in a way, out there by all by their lonesome, even as members of a team. “If you’re in shape, you win. If you’re not, you don’t. Here’s the start, here’s the finish… it’s you!”
Bauer is the first to admit that he can be hardcore when it comes to coaching, pushing the young athletes to their limit and perhaps a bit beyond.
Taking a moment to reflect on someone who guided his way to such a long career as a mentor of young athletes, Bauer said, “A guy who was very helpful to me as a coach was Jerry Davitt… It’s tough at times, but then I try to think of the four things that Jerry taught me when I started coaching: be tough, think positive, be enthusiastic and be like a duck—let it roll off your back.”
Reflecting a bit more on this early advice, he added, “Yeah, I get on people sometimes, but I want them to do well… Sometimes you put ‘em down, but then you build ‘em up. It gives them confidence to go out and try.”
As Coach Bauer eyes going for the “double nickel” as a coach, he said he plans on returning to the fields of athletic competition, as long as his “health holds out. My back ain’t so good right now, we have a lot of young kids coming along now. I’d like to stick with them. I enjoy seeing kids do well.
“A lot of it is getting them to believe in themselves. I’ve enjoyed seeing kids accomplish things and move on. Sports helps them to compete in the outside world; they learn to handle things deal with it. Especially in football, if you get knocked down, you can’t just lay there—you have to get back up.”