DALTON -- Twenty years is a long time. In some sports, it can be an eternity.
While that’s how long it has been between varsity soccer coaching jobs for Pat West, the Wahconah Regional girls soccer coach is still right on top of the game.
"I’ve been coaching since," West said. "It’s been all boys -- the Under-19 boys and I even did a stint with the Under-14 boys for two years [coaching] my own kids."
West stepped aside in 1992 at Pittsfield High School, watched sons Liam and Colin play for John Kovacs at Wahconah, coached some age group teams and has been a soccer official and officials’ assigner.
West, who teaches English at Nessacus Middle School, is also on Dustin Belcher’s softball coaching staff at Wahconah. So while he might not have been coaching girls soccer, West has been coaching girls.
He returns to coach a team that is now well-established in the sports hierarchy.
"It’s very different now," he said. "In 1992, soccer was on the rise and there were an awful lot of people who viewed soccer as their sport.
"Right now there are far more. In addition to that, over 10 years [in the late 1990s], soccer exploded and that had to do with the women winning the World Cup."
Wahconah striker Alex Keator said she knew her new coach from when she was a sixth grader at Nessacus. Other members of the soccer team have played under West on the softball team. She said the
"He did have some different ideas," said Keator. "I think he’s really contributed to the team. We all like him and all respect him. I think we work well."
Wahconah stopper Erin Grogan agreed with her teammate that things have gone smoothly in the transition from Jessie Ryan to West.
"I’ve had him as a coach since freshman year," said Grogan. "He’s pretty different. In softball Š he’s there to help us out. Here, he’s the head coach so he’s more strict."
West is also one of many good soccer coaches in Berkshire County and Western Massachusetts. The growth of the sport has seen to that.
"Here’s something else I’ve noticed -- everywhere you look, there’s a good coach in the league," he said. "They all know [soccer]. Some of the coaches then were phys ed teachers. There’s a good coach everywhere now."
Girls sports have grown exponentially over the past 20 to 30 years, and with that growth has come a parallel refinement in how the game is played.
There is no doubt that the way the current Wahconah girls varsity basketball team looks different in how it plays than it did when it won a Western Massachusetts Division II title in 1995. It is the same thing in soccer.
When West last coached girls, some of his players were excellent athletes, but were making their soccer debuts.
"We have an awful lot of kids who play soccer all year round. They play indoors. They go to tournaments. They’re more soccer knowledgeable. Their skills are more nuanced," he said. "We had a lot of good athletes, but no one played the way they do now."
West did say it would be fair to describe his former players as excellent athletes who play soccer. Now, he said you could flip that around to where they are soccer players who are excellent athletes too. The current crop of players might play basketball, softball or run track in the off-season for their high schools. On the weekend, the Wahconah coach said, they’re still going off and playing soccer.
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