Coaches Willis May, Andrea Kowalski-Rospierski and Brian Staubly all resigned from coaching during the 2018-2019 season. May left Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School at of the beginning of March, taking a position in another county. Kowalski-Rospierski and Staubly have resigned from coaching but will remain at MSD.
After losing both assistant coach Aaron Feis and athletic director Chris Hixon, head football coach Willis May struggled with adjusting to a new daily routine.
“I walk into my office every day, and Aaron Feis’s office is right next to me, Chris Hixon’s office is right next to me, and I miss those guys with all my heart every day,” May said in a March 13 article published by ESPN.
May coached the varsity football team for six years. Dealing with the loss of his colleagues, May decided to resign and relocated to South Fort Myers High School, where he is coaching football.
May impacted MSD as a whole, from the football team to his own physical education students. According to May’s players, he taught them how to have a good work ethic, important life lessons and many other skills. He stressed to his players the importance of success beyond the football field.
“He has always been there for the whole team, always giving us encouragement and keeping us in a good mood,” sophomore Nick Dicaprio said. “He was always a great coach and getting people better every day.”
Along with his positive influence on his team, May connected well with many of the players. He consistently taught the team how to push through difficult times and energized them before games or practices.
“He made me a stronger person and he gave me more confidence about myself,” junior Josh Funk said. “He made me push myself to limits I didn’t think I could. He treated us all like family, he made us all feel like brothers. I’m going to miss him like crazy and I hope he does well wherever he goes.”
Assistant coach Quentin Short will be filling in as the interim head coach for the remainder of the year.
Short has coached for 18 years in total and spent six of those years coaching at MSD. Short’s own experiences in sports in both high school and college inspired him to become a coach.
“Sports is what I love, my passion; it’s what I did when I was in high school and college. The impacts the coaches had on me growing up and in my life, I look to be the same type of impactful person in these kids lives,” Short said.
In addition to coach May, former softball coaches Kowalski-Rospierski and Staubly resigned from coaching the MSD softball team. Both left coaching due to personal reasons that they do not wish to disclose.
After being an athlete her whole life, Kowalski-Rospierski wanted to continue that path by becoming a coach. Kowalski-Rospierski decided to follow this dream, coaching softball at MSD for the past five years.
“The coaches I grew up with really impacted me, made me want to continue to be a coach myself and get other players to be athletes as well,” Kowalski-Rospierski said. “Now, my athletes are a big part of my life. Especially here at this school, [I’m] just trying to be there for them [the athletes] and help them when I can.”
Being an educator herself, Kowalski-Rospierski, made sure the team was on top of their grades through grade checks before, during, and after their season to enforce the importance of doing well on the field as well as in the classroom.
After coaching his own daughter while she was growing up, Staubly decided to continue coaching the varsity softball team. Staubly has coached at MSD for 22 years.
“Just working with the kids, seeing the kids grow, seeing them go off to college, and helping them get scholarships, it’s been a positive effect on my life the whole time I was coaching,” Staubly said. “It’s nice when I see somebody that I’ve coached, 15 to 20 years ago, when we stay in contact. I watch how they grow and become successful in life and hopefully, I’ve had a little impact in that.”
The coaches established a connection with their team that encouraged them to work hard on the field and in their life outside of sports.
“Staubly and KR have been my coaches since freshman year and they’ve really helped me grow,” junior Samantha Diaz said. “It was really upsetting when they quit, but I understand why they did it. Coach Sal really stepped up and we couldn’t have finished the season without him so I really appreciate him.”
The coaches wanted to see their players reach their full potential and become better athletes and people.
“Both Staubly and KR taught me not only a lot about the game but about myself. Two people who have done only good to me. They instilled a fire and fight in us that affected the team as a whole,” junior Abby Dowd said. “After everything we’ve been through together, as coaches they stressed the importance of being together. The softball program and players are forever in debt to Staubly and KR and their time and dedication to the team.”
Assistant coach Sal Vacirca will be finishing out the year as the MSD softball head coach, but is unsure if he will be taking the full-time job next year. Kowalski-Rospierski is still teaching at MSD and Staubly is still an MSD security guard.
“The importance of coaching is the impact they have on their players. Coaches don’t only teach you about the game, but about yourself. I have learned multiple life skills and other skills to get through my life,” Dowd said. “I have learned things from my coaches that you can’t learn in the classroom.”
While each of the three coaches departing from their positions have different journeys ahead, each has taught their players the importance of a team and getting through tough situations.
While many of the athletes at MSD await a change in dynamic on the field, it is easy to say that their coaches have greatly influenced their team by teaching them how to become better people on and off the field.
This story was originally published in the May 2019 Eagle Eye print edition.