Fifty years later, Tony Elia can recall his first year coaching soccer at Saugerties High School like it was yesterday.
The modified soccer coach says there are no coincidences in life — there is a reason for everything. Ironically, Elia’s career path started with a chance meeting in 1972 between himself and Pete Kramer, a former trustee for the Saugerties Central School District Board of Education.
At the time, Elia was an experienced young soccer player who was working towards earning his master’s degree in Education from SUNY New Paltz.
Back then Elia was trying to decide between playing soccer or pursuing a career as an educator. His meeting with Kramer resulted in him deciding to do both — teach Social Studies while creating the first soccer program at Saugerties High School. For the next 30 years, Elia coached the varsity soccer team before spending another 20 years coaching modified soccer. He ended up teaching Social Studies for 38 years and retired in 2009.
Since starting his career in Saugerties, Elia has been instrumental in the development of a variety of soccer programs in the area. He was the co-founder and chairman of the Mid-Hudson Youth and Adult Soccer Leagues, as well as the Saugerties Youth and Adult Soccer Leagues.
Many of Elia’s former players have gone on to make soccer their chosen sport post-high school by playing in various soccer clubs, coaching, or by competing in college.
The district held a celebration in honor of Elia’s 50th anniversary, inviting family, colleagues and friends to mark his achievement. The district also presented him with a jacket to commemorate the milestone. Elia said he was speechless and felt choked up. “The thrill of this game never gets old, and I will do it for as long as I can,” he said about his future as a coach.