Torrington: He had reached that one name status a while ago.
When folks heard the name, you knew who they meant.
Mario is Mario Longobucco, the now former THS girls’ soccer head coach who is stepping down after 14 seasons on the sidelines of the Raiders soccer program.
Not that he’s going too far. He is at the school in his role as co-chairman of the building committee for the new high school/middle school project almost daily to make sure things are progressing as scheduled.
Along with fellow co-chair Ed Arum, they make sure that this massive project stays the course with the high school part scheduled to open in January of 2025 and the middle school in the fall of 2025.
For Longobucco, winning was important but not the only priority for his program. He posted an 86-149-8 mark over those years.
He has seen his fair share of great seasons (15-1 in his first year in 2010) and some seasons he may want to forget but his contribution to the Torrington community goes beyond the numbers.
He and Arum spearheaded the Robert H Frost Complex project at THS when a new turf field and state of the art track was put in 10 years ago.
Their meticulous stewardship of that project is evident in the fact that the complex still looks brand new.
The key? Convincing the powers that be to invest in maintaining the field year after year. The track has been re-painted at the seven year mark and will again at the 14-year mark.
Here are some highlights from his career. You will note his ever-present sense of humor throughout.
Best post season
Second round loss in 2010 to 2009 semifinalist Masuk.
A tough 1-0 loss in 2011 to a really good Woodstock Academy team and most of all a 4-1 loss in 2012 at Old Lyme because it cost me 150 bucks buying McDonald’s for the long bus ride home.
Talk about why you took the job.
Glen Aeschliman had to quit after 2009 because of longer hours at his post office job. I had already been keeping score for his teams and coached them in the spring with Paul O’Heron for many, many, years.
So, I knew the roster and what I would do differently with them. At that point Paul and I had been coaching one season or another since about, I don’t know, 1996 or so. I guess coaching at the high school was the next logical step. I had some concerns with Alyssa (his daughter) graduating from Marist and moving to NYC and Brett (his son) starting his freshman year and playing at Endicott College.
I got lucky and we managed to be at pretty much every one of his games over his four years and we got to visit Alyssa quite often. On the rare occasion that I couldn’t go, Diane (his wife) held down the fort.
Talk about the players that you coached.
What did you want to get from them each season and did they meet your expectations?
Oh man, I really love every group that I have coached, regardless of the record.
So many great kids, I’ll miss making those connections. Those first five or six years or so when we had some good teams, I coached like a maniac.
I pushed and pushed and pushed. and because the girls were very competitive, they flourished.
For that reason, that 15-1 team was unbelievable.
We were very big in stature. Sarah Royals, Morgan Thulin, Taylor Christiano, Brittany Kackowski, Aly Otis, Eva Hintz, and some small players that played big.
Mariah Cerruto, for one.
There were other good players on that team and I’m sorry if I don’t mention them. That team won 15 games because they wanted it, not because of anything I did.
I moved a few people around from the previous year, but they did the work.
I guess you could say I was a pusher the first half of my stay at THS and a bit of a pushover the second half.
I stopped pushing so hard because we had to. Most kids, not all, changed and didn’t respond to the hard nose approach.
Sub-consciously, I was still hard and expected the most out of our better players each year. I feel terrible singling out girls because I love all of them.
Olivia Morrison was a tough competitor. It wasn’t unusual for her to stay on crutches during the weekend because of a constantly injured ankle.
Monday she’d tape it up and get out there.
Payton Graham, Olivia’s sister, and Abby McCarthy were captains for three years.
Erica Morrison’s class was so much fun. Erica got a very serious concussion. I still think it’s why she got a job at NASA and now Microsoft. We still try to get together when they are in town.
I enjoyed Brianna Murelli’s work ethic. It was easy to point to her and tell the girls work that hard and you’ll be fine.
This year’s team had some great kids on it, including some first-year players who worked really hard. As far as meeting expectations, you can’t be really happy winning five games a year for the last seven years.
There’s a lot of reasons for it, but I still wouldn’t trade any of the girls I’ve coached for a winning record.
Aside from winning games, what did you try to instill in the young ladies who you coached?
I really, really tried to get them to understand what a competitive future awaited them in college and the work force.
If you want all the things, we all want, you have to scratch and claw for your share and work your butt off.
I wanted them to bring a real hard-working mentality to soccer in hopes that it would carry over at least a little bit.
Honestly, that has been more and more difficult to accomplish as the years have gone by. I think any coach in any sport would tell you that.
The real competitive kids with the fire in their belly are becoming a rare commodity.
Talk about the next generation of coaches.
Alexis Tyrell and Shannon Reardon.
It’s rare that a plan comes together. Since eighth grade Alexis would say she was going to college and then wanted to come back and teach PE and coach in Torrington.
I knew she would take over for me eventually.
She has the organizational ability you would expect from a teacher coupled with the competitiveness she already had in high school, and she utilized as a Soccer and Softball standout at Eastern CT State University, including an appearance in the college world series.
Shannon is much more soft spoken but is already finding her voice like any good coach needs to do.
She has a very tough job training JV players, many of them who have never played the game before.
Alexis and Shannon will form a great coaching duo if they stick with it.
Why do you think they will be a good fit for THS girls’ soccer?
For starters, I think it’s very important for the team to have a female, or in this case, two females as coaches.
There is nothing about a 62-year-old man that the girls can relate to and vice versa.
A lot of these girls have an awful lot going on in their lives and they are hesitant to speak openly with a male coach.
A high school coach is way more than just some guy or girl who is trying to teach you a sport.
They are a Nurse, teacher, therapist, doctor, surrogate parent, the whole nine yards.
For two and a half months, we spend more time with the girls than their parents.
What advice would you give them?
It’s not going to be easy. Hopefully, they can do a few things that I just didn’t have the time for. Working with the Middle School and Youth Soccer Girls teams, if there are any, for instance.
I would continue to keep as many girls rostered as possible and try to create competition for playing time.
When we have girls who come to THS and start immediately as freshman and stay in that spot for four years because there are no other experienced players, it’s only human nature that they get comfortable and don’t push themselves to improve.
There needs to be eleven girls sitting on the bench who are able to push the eleven ones in the lineup and take their place if they aren’t performing.
If we can create that scenario, then you’ll see massive improvement in each player and therefore the team.
We are not in that position currently and have not been for quite some time. Heck, we had a year where we had 15 girls and the following year, we had 17.
We were at 35 this year so we are making progress.
Talk about a few favorite memories from your years. There have to be some funny stories.
Oh, every day of every year is funny.
I like to have fun and so do they. I make fun of them; they make fun of me even more.
Usually something about fake hips, lack of hair, or being a senior citizen.
I spend a lot of time talking to the upperclassmen about their future plans and make myself available to them.
The girls I’ve coached are starting to get married and have kids and I really love seeing that. So many of them are doing great things in their lives.
It makes me proud to say that I coached them. They are who they are because of the parents, their family, and their own doing. I hope they look back and say that in some small way I was a positive influence in their lives.
I’m very lucky. At a time when my kids were leaving the nest, for three months of every year I had 20 to 35 girls that I thought of as daughters to distract me and occupy my time. I won’t forget any of them and I hope at least some of them feel the same.
Post soccer plans?
A lot of things! Spending a lot of time on daily visits and meetings for the school project.
Very exciting to see that taking shape. We’re working with the BOE on a grant that will make the athletic fields even nicer than they are designed to be as part of the project.
But more importantly, trying to spend more time with Diane. I’ve been playing or coaching almost every fall since we started dating in 1980 so we’ve never gotten away in the fall.
I want to try and see the grandkids more and help Alyssa with the projects she loves doing at her home in Cortlandt, NY.
Brett runs the strength and conditioning department at NYU, and they have a spectacular billion-dollar building.
He lives in Jersey City, NJ and I would like to tour that building and get there to see them more.
My real estate business always takes a hit in the fall when I was coaching. I don’t work, I don’t get paid.
I’ll put my newfound free time into my work. Now, all that being said,
I’m sure I’ll be at as many boys’ and girls’ games as I can going forward. I’ll run the clock, or just watch, whatever is needed.
The Longbucco Family: Wife Diane, married for 37 years, Alyssa Longobucco Bottenhofer and her Husband Andrew and their kids 3-year-old Liam and 1 year old Cecelia.
Brett and his girl Amber Casillas