Frongillo Named US Youth Soccer Region I Coach of the Year

Franklin Youth Soccer’s Rich Frongillo became the second Massachusetts Youth Soccer coach in as many years to earn US Youth Soccer’s Region I Boys Competitive Coach of the Year honor, US Youth Soccer announced in January.

Frongillo’s nomination packet — featuring a thick stack of recommendations, thanks, and endorsements — is a testament to how many lives he has improved while coaching the youth of Franklin, Mass.

Frongillo’s coaching career began in 1989 and hasn’t stopped or slowed since.

Frongillo himself is a product of the Franklin Youth Soccer Association program, having been a youth member in the organization before playing at Franklin High School and UMass.

Following his playing career, Frongillo returned to Franklin to give back to the community that gave him his start, launching a coaching career in 1989 that hasn’t stopped or slowed since. Today, Frongillo coaches three FYSA travel teams (Girls’ U13, Boys’ U12 and Boys’ U10), one instructional team (U8) and one club team, and also worked with FYSA’s Pee Wee Soccer program.

In addition to his coaching duties, Frongillo serves FYSA and Mass Youth Soccer in numerous other capacities, including as a referee and certified USSF instructor and assessor, and as a volunteer for the Bay State Games and Special Olympics.

His family, past and current players and colleagues consistently emphasize Frongillo’s innovation and creativity in motivating his players, as well as his giving them new and interesting ways to learn the basics. As a coach, he is known for respect, kindness, enthusiasm and the development of well-rounded athletes.

Bob Palmiero, Region I Director, had nothing but glowing remarks for Frongillo: “Richard is indeed worthy of this most prestigious award and I was certainly impressed with his countless years of dedication to coaching soccer in Mass Youth. He certainly has touched the lives of many with his passion and love for the game.”

Earlier this month, Frongillo represented Mass Youth and Region I as one of four finalists for the US Youth Soccer National Boys Competitive Coach of the Year honor at the annual US Youth Soccer Awards Gala, held in conjunction with the 2009 US Youth Soccer Workshop in San Jose. We caught up with Frongillo after the event to learn more about his experience, his coaching philosophy and his advice for other aspiring coaches.

How did you find out that you had been nominated for Regional Coach of the Year, and what was your reaction?

Frongillo: “The first I heard anything about the Region I Coach of the Year award was when Mass Youth President Sid Bloom called me to tell me that I had been selected to receive it. When Sid called, I presumed he wanted to discuss the Massachusetts award, and I was shocked to hear about the regional award having been decided.  The news of the Massachusetts award had just started to sink in, and the regional award was even more humbling.

“I know there are hundreds and hundreds of coaches working with players all over the state and region, many of which are equally deserving of recognition. To be singled out among so many fine people made me feel quite special and responsible as a representative of all the quality coaches in the soccer community.

“By the same token, I am very proud of my loyalty to coaching young people and my accomplishments as a coach. This is my 20th year coaching youth soccer in Massachusetts, having worked with dozens of teams and players of all ages. I have been passionate about the game since I was a young boy. To be recognized by people in the soccer community, to which I am so devoted, is a thrill and tremendously gratifying.”

What do you think it was about yourself that inspired the selection committee to choose you over the other candidates?

Frongillo: “I really have no idea; perhaps it was a slow year for competitive coaches in Region I. I was told that many people contributed kind words on my behalf in constructing the application, for which I am honored and grateful.

“I like to think that the main tenets of my coaching philosophy and my dedication were noticed in the review process. I emphasize helping players build their own solid, technical foundation in a fun, supportive, and energetic environment.  I teach competition without sacrificing a focus on individual development or sporting behavior.

I've volunteered since 1989, holding many roles in Franklin and across Massachusetts.  If you want more information, see my soccer bio at:

What kinds of special events did USYS have for you at the USYS Awards Gala in San Jose?

Frongillo: “The primary special event that USYS sponsored was the Gala Awards Dinner. This event was memorable as USYS did a nice job of making the award winners feel special. I got to meet several soccer enthusiasts from across the country at dinner, including one of the Hall of Fame inductees, who was a founder of USYSA.

“The USYS conference is a terrific environment for a soccer enthusiast. I was fortunate to have my entire family with me during the festivities, and watching my happy children participate as players in several coaching demonstrations was particularly fun.

The Mass Youth Soccer contingent — including new president Skip Gorman, his wife Barbara, and his staff — went out of their way to make the trip to San Jose extraordinary for my family and I. I cannot express how appreciative I am that they extended themselves to include my family.”

Who were you seated with at the reception, and what were your emotions during the dinner and awards presentation?

Frongillo: “We were seated with Patrick Zoete from Florida, the Region III Boys Competitive Coach of the Year.  With him were his two children, college student Claudia and high school senior Mats. Also at the table was the Region III Director Mike McDaniel from Arkansas. Mike was the presenter of the national award in the Boys Competitive category.

“In all the time since I found out about the Region I award I was repeatedly asked whether I was nervous about my chances of winning the national award.I really had no expectations of being selected. As it happens, last year’s winner in this category was also from Massachusetts, so I figured that it was near impossible that Massachusetts would have back-to-back winners. That said, when it got very close to the announcement (the boys competitive category was the last one to be announced), my heart was beating very hard until I got up on stage.  When the national winner [Indiana’s Isang Jacob], a native of Nigeria, was announced, he was very emotional and genuinely appreciative.  His words during the ceremony were heartfelt and impressive, touching the audience and myself. It felt good that he was chosen.”

What one piece of advice would you give to other up-and-coming coaches who aspire to be in your position some day?

Frongillo: “It is not easy to distill years of experience into one piece of advice. I'd say, treat each player as a special individual with boundless potential. Share your spirit, knowledge and love with your players. Always be open to learning more about the game itself and the people who are involved in it.”

Mass Youth Soccer and all of Region I extend a big congratulations to Rich Frongillo on this outstanding honor. Thank you, Rich, for all you do for youth soccer in our state!