So where did this Alfonso guy go after his early years coaching at Highland, you may ask? Why to New Paltz, that’s where. And what, pray tell, did this Alfonso fellow accomplish while coaching at New Paltz? Oh, not much. He only coached the New Paltz boys’ basketball team for six years (2003-2009) and won the only Section 9 title ever for the Huguenots in 2007, winning at least 16 games each of his last three seasons, after taking over a program that had won just three games the year before he came on board.
That’s all? you may ask. No, that’s not all...Alfonso also coached the boys’ varsity soccer program from 1996 to 2007, making it to the MHAL final four times and the Section 9 final three times, and winning more games than any boys’ soccer coach in Huguenots’ history.
This guy sounds like a good coach, you say. But again, that’s not all...Alfonso ALSO coached the varsity softball team from 1998 to 2009, taking his 2007 and 2008 teams to the Section 9 final for the only times in school history. Oh, and he also coached the JV boys’ soccer team from 1984 to 1986 (starting at age 19) and the varsity boys’ soccer team for one year in 1987 (the first time around).
So (you must be saying after reading this list of accomplishments) why would New Paltz let this outstanding coach go?
“You should ask them,” says Alfonso, as we sit at a table at Tony Williams Park in Highland, from where he runs the rec program. “Ask the administration, the school board, the parents, not me. I gave it my best and got results, but I guess for a few of them that wasn’t good enough.”
And, says Alfonso, still annoyed at the refusal of the New Paltz Board of Education to pick up his contract again, especially for boys’ basketball and softball, “have you noticed what has happened to the softball team, especially, since?” and he ticks off his taking the team to Orlando for Spring training games five straight years (including fund raisers), the 20-24 games played every season, the top-notch non-league schedule played (including tournaments), the 12 girls still playing softball in college (including two: Brooke Frey at St. Bonaventure and Emily Pogemiller at Central Connecticut, at Division 1) and the 15-16 kids out for the team every year. “None of that has happened since. How do you go from one to the other? How do you go from 20 to 25 games per year to 14? And from 15-16 kids out to 12?”
As for basketball, Alfonso mentions that the team won 16 games his final year and made it to the Section 9 semifinal. “We lost to the eventual champion (Cornwall),” says Alfonso. “Matt (Moore, the JV coach under Alfonso) has done a good job since, but I know the pressures he’s under from unrealistic parents who complain about their kids not getting enough playing time.” Alfonso is from the School of Thought that plays the best player, “no matter who he is or who his parents are, I’m playing to win, so I give the best players the most time. It is varsity sports after all.”
Alfonso had planned to leave the boys’ soccer program in 2004, but stayed three more years, “because the administration asked me to. They couldn’t find another coach. So I did them a favor.”
The past two years Alfonso has been the softball coach at SUNY-Ulster, which has its own, very particular, set of difficulties. “The team you start with in the Fall is usually not the same team in the Spring,” says Alfonso, alluding to the fact that it is a commuter school, kids get jobs, move on to four-year colleges, lose interest as their high school skills are challenged at the higher level. “It’s difficult to keep the same kids on the field throughout the year.” This Fall, however, Alfonso has landed a “plum” of his own in Marlboro pitcher Courtney Schmelz, who was 19-2 last season for the Dukes, pitching them into the MHAL and Section 9 title games.
So, what comes around goes around, and here is Alfonso, now in his mid-40’s and with a wealth of head-coaching experience, readying himself for a new challenge. And in his hometown. “I don’t know a lot of the kids or their parents. I’m from way back when,” he says, laughing. “So I’m not going to be other than who I am, and that means playing hard and playing to win. And saying what I want to say. I like the idea of building up a program, like I did with those New Paltz teams. It’s a real challenge and I like challenges.”
Alfonso’s Highland boys’ soccer team will be previewed before the season begins (the second week of September).