Watt steps down as St. C. soccer coach

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — There comes a time when a coach has to make a tough decision that has absolutely nothing to do with the sport they love. Gary Watt recently came to that point in his career.

After 11 seasons of coaching the St. Clairsville boys’ soccer program, Watt has decided to hang up his clipboard in order to spend more time with his family.

“I’m doing this because it’s good for my family. My daughter — Eliana — is a junior and is again playing soccer. I feel I need to give her the attention I gave my son when he was playing sports,” he explained. “I would have to miss nine games of her junior season, and I don’t want to do that.

“Things have changed for my family. It’s a good decision for my wife and my daughter and, ultimately, it will be good for me.”

During his days leading the Red Devils, his teams won one OVAC championship, that coming in 2014-15, and played for three.

“We had nice seasons. They were all competitive and we won a lot of games every year,” he added. “We had some showcase games that we were proud of, and we had some games we wish would could have back. But that’s high school sports. Overall, it was a good experience and a lot of fun.”

Most times, but not all, when a coach steps down it usually means the talent pool has run dry. That isn’t the case here.

“The team is loaded for next year. Whomever gets the job has a keeper (Ethan Banks) that has three years of experience behind (graduated) Ryan Davenport,” Watt continued. “Every time Ethan came in, he did the job. The last three years we’ve had a ton of new talent coming in. Our freshmen and sophomore classes, along with the junior class, has a lot of talent and experience. There are 4-5 seniors that will be four-year starters.

“That made the decision even easier. I hate leaving at all … my heart still says coach, but it’s the right decision for my family,” he admitted. “When you make the right decision, you know it is right no matter how you feel. It’s still the right decision.

“What made it easier is that I’m handing it off to someone that doesn’t have to rebuild. It is a loaded underclass team with upperclass leadership.”

One of the main reasons was uncertainty with an assistant coach.

“Last year Luke (Nelson) could step up when I needed to go watch my daughter play, but I wasn’t sure what was going on with him as far as the athletic director’s job was concerned. Not knowing what the situation was was a big part of the decision.”

Nelson was ultimately named the new athletic director upon Rine’s retirement.

“The program is in great shape. There are a lot of things that contributed to that,” he noted. “Getting that new stadium with the turf was a game-changer, not just for soccer but for football and track, especially. That was the biggest boost during my tenure.

“When I took over there were only 13 guys on the team. We were practicing on the old rock field (old football practice field) or traveling all the way to the Jr. Sports Complex,” he said. “It wasn’t convenient. There weren’t a lot of resources. We had a bag of used balls. Now we have 40 kids out and play a full JV schedule.

“Kelly came in as athletic director the year before I started coaching. His outlook on high school sports changed everybody’s opportunity there. I was fortunate enough to be a part of all of those changes. It was a good decade.”

Ironically, Watt took over for Nelson, who moved to Florida.

“He came back and I asked him if he wanted to be my assistant,” Watt recalled. “Wes Stoner, the girls’ coach, was an assistant for me, as was Pat Donley. I even had one of my past players — Dallas Young — serve as an assistant. There were a couple of years where I didn’t have an assistant.”

The Rayland resident will still be a guidance counselor at the high school, a position he started in 2006.

“I would like to thank the administration. I’ve always had a ton of support from them,” he said. “Dr. (Walt) Skaggs is a real cheerleader for our program. He’s been there to watch them play and he follows the other sports at St. Clairsville the same. Kelly Rine, in my mind, is an amazing individual and he did a great job as athletic director. I’d also like to thank my wife and family for supporting me. Being a coach in any sport takes up a lot of time.”

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