“Winning breeds winning.”
When the Eastern High School girls soccer team defeated Haddonfield in a convincing 4-1 victory recently, there was much to celebrate, notably that the team became the first in the Olympic conference to 10 wins, first place in the conference and a fifth straight win.
But no feat was more celebrated than Coach Jamie McGroarty’s 500th victory with the soccer program.
“I wanted to challenge myself,” said McGroarty, an Eastern teacher who took on the coaching role in 2003. “It was widely known that our division is just loaded with really good programs … That was my main goal … just to compete at a higher level.”
Three state championships and 500 wins later, it’s safe to say that McGroarty’s “challenge” has paid off: He is only the third coach in South Jersey history to reach the historic milestone, joining former Haddonfield coach Joe Falana and former Shawnee coach Brian Gibney, who led men’s programs.
A Cherry Hill West and Rowan University graduate, McGroarty saw plenty of success on the field. He’s a member of the athletic hall of fame at both schools, so it’s no surprise his competitive nature spilled over into coaching. McGroarty said his knack for competition is ultimately what’s kept him coaching so long.
“I’ve always wanted to win and do well. This is my competitive outlet now; as you know, I had to stop playing at some point,” said McGroarty, who admits it took him some time to learn that not every player he coaches needs or wishes to be coached the way he was.
“As a player, I was the type … who liked to be yelled at by my coach and liked to be pushed by my coach,” he added. “It made me better. I know I was never satisfied. I always wanted to be better and always wanted to win. I was fortunate to play for a very successful high-school program, a very successful college program …
“Winning just breeds winning, that’s my mentality,”
McGroarty’s mentality rubbed off on his daughter Kelli, who was a part of Eastern’s most recent state championship team and received First Team All State honors her senior year. She went on to play Division 1 soccer at La Salle University.
Her father said they discussed both walking away from the program at the same time, to do something after their time together. But as McGroarty has said time and time again, his competitive nature took over.
“We [talked] about it, but it was a short-lived thought. I just like it too much,” he pointed out. “Every year, there are other players that you want to have the opportunity to coach … It was definitely considered at the time, but I just thought there was more to do and I enjoyed it too much to give it up …
McGroarty added that he’ll know “when it’s time.”
While he will continue coaching, McGroarty is ready to retire from teaching. He will officially retire in December, something else he and his family can celebrate in 2022.
The Vikings currently sit atop their division, with six games remaining, including one against McGroarty’s alma mater, Cherry Hill West, on Oct. 20.
“(Soccer) can be a cruel game,” McGroarty said. “But that’s what makes it fun – overcoming those obstacles and (making sure) we put the best players on the field.”