Gene Ventriglia’s 1965 New Paltz Men’s Soccer team won an NCAA regional title, during what he called the “golden age” of New Paltz soccer. Forty-five years later, he will be on the sidelines hoping to coach his former team to another one.
Ventriglia, who coached West Point for 25 years before coming to SUNY New Paltz, was appointed by Athletic Director Stuart Robinson and will take over for former coach Eric Watson when the Men’s Soccer team starts next season.
“My interest in coming back here is stronger than just being a coach,” Ventriglia said. “I feel like it’s coming home.”
Robinson said that Ventriglia was appointed to be the coach, instead of going through an entire hiring process, to make sure the recruitment cycle was not hindered for the coming season and because his extensive track record as a head coach has shown that he has been successful at every level of coaching.
“My expectation is that he is going to bring us stability and share the knowledge of the sport and love of the game,” Robinson said.
Besides coaching at West Point, Ventriglia’s coaching record includes a 233-33-15 record as the head coach of the New Paltz High School, Goshen High School and Highland High School Boys’ Soccer programs.
Ventriglia said while at the helm of the Highland High School program, he coached the team to two state championships, and in 1984 the team went 24-0.
In 1985 Ventriglia was hired as the head coach to start a Women’s Soccer program at West Point.
His experiences at different levels of coaching are something he believes gives him “an overall background” that will be helpful as he takes over the Hawks.
Ventriglia served as an assistant volunteer coach for Watson over the last season, and has already begun thinking about his plan for the team’s future.
“The team has all the ingredients, we are a very good team,” Ventriglia said. “But we need to play faster and share the ball.”
To achieve these goals, Ventriglia said he will push the team in training sessions, and hopes that practicing everyday will lead to better handling of the ball. He said that he will start off by having the team practice “on a smaller level” and will eventually raise the level to something similar to a game. He hopes that this will improve the team’s passing and ability to keep the game small in the minds of players.
Ventriglia immigrated from Italy to play for New Paltz’s team, and barely spoke English when he started playing in America. He said that his time on the team shaped him as a person and he hopes to inspire his players in the same way.
“I always felt a need to do the same,” Ventriglia said. “We want to win championships, that’s obvious, but there is more to it than that.”
Ventriglia said that he will stress that players continue to strive academically, and will try to make a difference in his players’ lives like his teammates and coaches did for him when he played.
“That’s my job, taking all of those things in when they leave here. I want to make sure they have a good experience,” Ventriglia said. “It’s not just about soccer. I hope in the end that I made a little difference.”
The coach of the 1965 team Ventriglia played on, Al Miller, is someone Ventriglia remembers fondly and hopes to emulate as he coaches going forward. Ventriglia said the team was focused, committed and had a sense of team.
“[The sense of team] is paramount, you cant win without it,” Ventriglia said. “That is the kind of atmosphere I want to create.”
Part of this atmosphere will be getting players to recognize the opportunity they are receiving, Ventriglia said. He said if players cherish the time they have on the field, embrace the team, have fun and learn from their season, the team will succeed.
Ventriglia called himself a “hands on coach” and a “player’s coach,” who will be very animated on the field and have a passion for the game. He said that throughout his coaching career, he has stressed that he doesn’t want to change a player to fit a certain mold.
“I don’t like to kill a special gift a player has,” Ventriglia said. “I want them to be themselves.”
Despite all of his coaching, he realizes that there is only so much he can do, and that the team is likely to make mistakes.
“They are young men, they are going to make mistakes,” Ventriglia said. “I don’t want them to be afraid to make mistakes though.”
As for next season, Ventriglia hopes to continue the success that the team has been having over the last few years. The Hawks 8-9-1 record last season was the best record the program has had since 2004, and the team fell out of conference contention on the final day of conference play.
“We are close,” Ventriglia said. “We have the tools and we should be good, I can promise you that.”