In years past the Stony Brook women’s club soccer team lacked leadership both on the field and from the sidelines. The recent hiring of new head coach Frank Crocombe has these girls feeling newly motivated to play the game they love, but they are not the only ones who are happy with the change.
“I got out there on that sideline and it felt like an old shoe, I was grinning from ear to ear, thinking to myself this is where I belong,” Crocombe said.
The girls have only been with Crocombe for a few practices and a couple of tournaments this spring, but they are already loving the new atmosphere.
“Frank (Crocombe) made us want to play for him, he connects and relates with players unlike any coach we’ve had in the past,” Kathryn Michaud, a senior who started the Women’s Soccer club, said. “He motivates us, and we enjoy playing for him,” she added.
Crocombe has been around the block when it comes to coaching women’s soccer. In 1981 Crocombe established Ward Melville High School’s first ever women’s soccer program, which he went on to coach for the next 30 years. His last season with them was in 2012 when he coached them to their first ever Suffolk County Championship title.
“It was the icing on the cake, the year I retired we won it all,” he said.
Little did he know that one day an innocent search on Craigslist would land him on the sideline once again.
“When I saw the ad my eyes lit up, although I was skeptical at first, the minute I got the email back to come in for an interview I knew it was legit,” Crocombe said.
He knew that this was the next step for him.
“I always wanted to coach at the collegiate level and this was my chance, so for me this is the big time,” he said.
The last coach to interview with the team for the job wound up being the perfect one, and quite frankly (no pun intended) before the interview the girls were just hoping this last candidate was normal, saying, “You know you can find some really interesting people on Craigslist, so we were more than pleased when we were done with Frank,” Michaud said with a smirk on her face.
The “very young 57-year-old,” as he would say, could not resist the temptation and found his way back on the field — this time with the Seawolves. The retired high school computer and business teacher is once again in charge, trying to gain the same respect with these girls as he had with the ones at Ward Melville.
“For me it is all about respect, if you respect your players and build a rapport they will work for you,” Crocombe said.
That was no issue when he arrived. Before he came to his first practice he was unsure of the level of play he was getting himself into, but knew exactly where to start.
“Ball control. I sound like a broken record at every practice, but that is what I preach to any girl I coach,” he said.
That did not really apply to the girls on this team.
“In my first practice with these girls they looked incredible. I knew some of them could have played D1 (NCAA),” he said. “I knew instantly that I had great players and I was real excited, they had excellent talent and a great touch on the field, something very hard to teach.”
Once he saw them play it only got better.
“The chemistry, want, and desire these girls have make it so much easier on me and that much easier to win,” he said.
His success at all levels begs the question: Just where did he learn how to play and coach women’s soccer? He does have some experience working with Stony Brook University’s varsity Women’s Soccer coach Sue Ryan, but other than that Crocombe is pretty much self-made.
Prior to his coaching and teaching days, Crocombe had not even stepped on the soccer field until after his high school graduation in 1974 from Centereach High School. He picked it up in college, playing men’s club soccer at the University of Albany.
“In high school men’s soccer was never really too popular and no one really ever went out for the team, but once I got to college I gave it a shot and loved it,” Crocombe said.
Once college was over, he knew the athletic director at Ward Melville High School and tried to wiggle his way into that school district to both teach and coach. It all worked out and the next 30 years were filled with memories. Now, he joins the Seawolves and looks to start a new chapter in his coaching career.
Among his great traits is his will to win, something these girls have been missing out on for the majority of their collegiate careers.
“I am not here for the trophies I don’t know what we’ll win — maybe it’s a candy bar, I don’t know, but we’re here to do one thing and that is succeed,” he said.