Tonawanda News — Deep down inside, Jay Hall knew the timing was right.
This past weekend Hall officially retired from the position as the Tonawanda High School varsity softball coach, a position he has held since the 1986-87 school year.
“It was about halfway through the season that I really started thinking about it,” Hall said Monday. “And it was definitely a hard decision to make. I enjoy the kids, I enjoy Tonawanda. Sitting and talking with some close friends and family and the athletic director (Brad Halgash) it really looked like (I was) at the point of OK, time to step away. Step away while I’m still in good graces. Step away and let somebody else maybe take it to the next level. Maybe a new face.”
Hall won the first of his two league titles in 1992 when his Lady Warriors took the Frontier Division of the NFL with a 12-9 record.
Amassing 237 careers wins during his career piloting the Lady Warriors, Hall’s greatest run of success came between 1997-2001 when the Warriors went 80-35 and claimed the ECIC Division III crown in 2001 with a 19-3 record.
Hall also saw many of his players go on to have successful college careers including Kim Dodson and Michelle Sherman who played for St. Bonaventure, Jill Koch (Niagara), Tami Thuman (Buff State), Stephanie Menth (Buff State), and Mandy Galus who secured a four-year ride to UMass.
“He definitely taught you the rules,” said former Warrior Meghan Kossow.
Now playing softball for Baldwin-Wallace (Ohio), Kossow played four years varsity softball and three seasons of varsity basketball for coach Hall.
“He was (also) an umpire and a referee so he was big on these are the rules and you’ve got to stick to the rules. You definitely learned the fundamentals.”
Knowing that several rumors have been circulating around town regarding his status with the softball team, Hall wanted to stress that he was not fired or forced to resign in any way, shape or form.
This was a retirement on his terms and he said he has received nothing but positive support from administrators like THS athletic director Brad Halgash. Halgash, who has nothing but respect and appreciation for Hall’s work, also added that this move was at Hall’s request.
“Jay came to me and we had a nice long discussion and I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him,” Halgash said. “In the end, he made the best decision for him and his family.”
Hall has always thought of his players as extensions of his family. Girls were more than mere players.
They felt like his own daughters, which is why it’s so hard to leave. But in the end it was the call of his flesh and blood that helped Hall make his decision. This was trying spring for Hall as his daughter Allison was finishing up her career at Hilbert and youngest daughter Elissa began her career at Medaille.
Understandably torn and wanting to be with his daughter’s as much as possible Hall decided that it simply wouldn’t be fair to the girls in the Warriors program to continue coaching if his thoughts and efforts were not entirely focused on them.
While many scholastic coaches tend to bow out when they feel the talent pool is drying up, Hall, interestingly enough, is doing just the opposite.
Hall’s successor will inherit a talented, young team that won 10 games. Lead by freshmen pitcher Rachel Allen, THS also returns juniors Tina Stuart and Danielle Palladino, sophomore Rebecca Toth, Alex Moore, three promising freshmen catchers in Sydney Myers and Alex Tyler and pitcher Haley Slater.
“I think I left the program in good shape,” Hall said.”I always said I never wanted to be a coach who left when everything was gone and I’m just getting out because there’s no team. We’ve fought through some good seasons and bad seasons in my 26 years. It was time, after talking to everybody, to pull the plug and go watch my daughter play in college. For the whole program, and myself, I thought it was time to get out.”
Hall, who led the girls varsity basketball team to its first-ever league title this season, will continue coaching the Lady Warriors basketball team.
In a day and age when so many people are out for just for themselves Hall, who retired in April after 35 years with the City of Tonawanda DPW, was never one of those coaches that looked for greener pastures. Tonawanda was, is and always will be his home and his dedication to the softball program was a not only a testament to his character it was an example of civic pride everyone can learn from.
“He loves Tonawanda. He’s really dedicated,” said THS junior Tina Stuart.”He’ definitely loves softball and he doesn’t give up on us, even though were a small city. It shows a lot of dedication (on his part).”