LCC Vice concludes extraordinary cross-country coaching career

After 24 remarkable seasons coaching the boys and girls cross country and track and field programs at La Costa Canyon High School, Bill Vice recently announced that he is stepping down from his coaching position at the end of the year. the fall season 2021 and, following the academic year 2022-2023, also retiring from his teaching position at the school.

Vice leaves as a “best of both worlds” coach — phenomenal success while maintaining his integrity, program values ​​and the undisputed respect of his peers.

Almost without fault or emphasis, when asked about Vice, other cross-country coaches in San Diego prep talk about Bill Vice the man, not Bill Vice the coach.

Vice gives her 2018 women’s team (which won a CIF Championship) pre-race instructions.

(Ken Fat)

Andy Corman, who has spent the past 10 years fighting Vice teams in league and sectional competitions as a head coach at Canyon Crest Academy, had a response that was both knowledgeable and typical.

“What’s amazing about Bill is that the first time I spoke to him and every time since he made me feel like I was the only person in the room,” Corman said emphatically. “He listened to me, could say what I was trying to say, what I wanted to say, and helped me see what I could do to resolve any questions or problems I was having – that is just a good guy. “

“As a coach, I certainly respect him for the quality of his teams and what his teams have accomplished,” said Dan Geiger, veteran Catholic cathedral mentor. “But the most important thing about Bill is that he’s doing it the right way. He has a good attitude, gets along with the other coaches, is there for the right reasons and he instills that attitude in his team. On top of all this, he is very humble.

It’s not like Vice doesn’t have a full catalog of accomplishments to discuss. In cross-country, her women’s teams have won 11 league championships (nine consecutive), eight CIF section titles in nine years (2010-18) and five podiums at the CIF State Meet. On the boys’ side, LCC racked up seven league crowns, five CIF banners and two State Meet finalist spots. Between the two teams, they’ve also finished second at the CIF Championships in San Diego on seven occasions.

On the individual side, Vice produced 18 CIF Cross Country Champions (eight boys and 10 girls between 2005 and 2021). The brother-in-law trio of Darren, Steven and Kristin Fahy made up seven, with Darren and Kristin adding state titles as well.

Vice received his baptism of preparation while still in college as a multi-sport coach at his alma mater, Montville High School, Connecticut. After graduating from UConn in 1984 he moved to East Lyme High School as a teacher / trainer and in 1988 moved to California for a similar position at Earl Warren Middle School in Solana Beach where he practiced. cross country, basketball and track and field. assignments.

This led to assistant basketball / track and field coaching roles as well as a location in a classroom at San Dieguito High School in 1991. In 1996-97, La Costa Canyon opened and San Dieguito began his transition to the San Dieguito Academy (SDA), which resulted in a temporary reduction. of its sports program. Vice accepted a teaching / coaching offer at LCC and in 1998 began leading the cross country / distance athletics programs that would eventually place the school among San Diego’s elite. The accomplishments may have even exceeded his own expectations.

“When I started at LCC, I don’t know if I had imagined what had happened, but I certainly wanted to,” he recalls. “At Montville we had a success story and our daughters won the state cross country championship my freshman year. So very early on I had seen it, but I knew I had to be careful because that sort of thing takes time and the competition in California is so tough.

“I remember my first year at LCC, we had a small team and our motto was ‘miles of smiles’ and that’s what we emphasized. Even as we grew and improved, we tried to preserve this aspect of the culture. “

During the growth period there were some individual successes, but in team terms the build was slow. In 2003, year five, Gillian Fitch became the Mavericks’ first qualifier at CIF State Meet and things turned upward from there.

Jacob and Garrett Stanford, who earned a brace at the 2018 CIF Championships, share a post-race moment with their coach.

Jacob and Garrett Stanford, who earned a brace at the 2018 CIF Championships, share a post-race moment with their coach.

(Ken Fat)

Despite the bright outlook, Vice briefly considered leaving the coaching ranks in 2004. “I told my assistant coach this would probably be my last year,” he said. “I had been a coach since 1981, so I already had 23 years of service. Vice and his wife, Amy (also a teacher), had two daughters, Madison and Morgan (later a member of the LCC cross-country team), who were 7 and 5, respectively, and the idea of ​​spending more than 10 years. family time was difficult.

In a fortuitous moment, freshman Katy Andrews, whose family had moved to the Walnut District, unexpectedly showed up at the trials wearing suspenders and a red Angels baseball cap. “After the first two days, I thought ‘this kid is extremely talented and a special person,’” Vice said. “I felt I had to make a commitment to stay during her time on the program.”

Andrews’ impact was immediate. She won individual CIF DI titles in 2005 and 2006 and a growing LCC girls’ team took tag team honors in 2005 and 2007. In 2005, the Mav daughters defeated rival Torrey Pines for the first time. times and Andrews was the silver medalist at the State Meet. The era marked the start of another trend.

“It was extremely rewarding and, you know what, those kind of kids just seemed to keep showing up,” Vice said. The arrival of Darren Fahy in 2008 helped push the boys’ team into the same rarefied realm as the girls and sparked over a decade of combined excellence for Vice’s unit.

Fast forward to the present day, at 59 with a total of 41 years of high school sports coaching under his belt, Vice seems confident in his decision to change gears at this point in life. “I planned to retire from teaching after next year and always said I didn’t want to coach the last year I taught because it would be kind of like chilling out,” said Vice. “People say ‘you’ll know when it’s good’ and that’s what it feels like.

“For the past four years, I have had open heart surgery and have seen our house destroyed by a devastating fire. Some people would call these signs. The house project is underway. Given where we are at, if I was coaching this fall I should be running out of time with the teams to deal with the details associated with what wouldn’t really be fair for the kids. I feel very much at peace with the decision.

Unlike many others in the profession, Vice’s decision-making process has little to do with a change of times or the inability to connect with a new generation of athletes. There is no doubt that his style would continue to generate positive results if he chose to stay put.

“Coach-athlete relationships haven’t really changed at the grassroots, but society has changed,” Vice smiled. “Before, we had to make sure the children were quiet on the bus. Now the bus readers are relatively quiet because they are all on their phones.

“The results we have had are good, but the relationships are what kept me going. I think if the kids believe in you as a coach and their teammates, they will compete with each other. “

A one-year stint in basketball at SDA in 1997-98 provided an interesting test of this philosophy. After transferring to LCC, Vice was approached to replace the coach of the newly reformed boys’ basketball team at SDA. Short on numbers and talent, the team, as expected, struggled mightily.

“We went from 0 to 19,” Vice recalls, “but the kids were still happy and working hard. I consider this one of my best coaching jobs.”

With the coaching efforts on the back burner, how does Vice intend to fill the void? “Family and home will be the primary areas of focus,” he said. “Coaching is a serious commitment and you give a lot of time. People don’t realize that cross country and track and field last all year.

“My family gave up a lot so that I could work with my other children, especially my wife. She came from a family who loved sports and knew how important it was to me. Without his support, I could not have done any of this.

He will certainly have more time to do other things that he enjoys that have been regularly put aside due to his busy schedule. “I have taken up golf before and own a sailboat that has been on my own a lot,” Vice said. “I will also be able to run more for myself now and I was the lead vocalist for a local musical group, the Dollar Bill Band, so in a way, I will always be part of a team too. “

He also made it clear that he would be there and available for the transition to LCC – to offer advice or no advice, as needed. It is an offer that others take for granted for his successor.

“You watch her show and you can see her kids really love each other,” CCA’s Corman said. “It’s a good, positive environment, something I’ve tried to emulate over the years.

“Coaching isn’t about one thing or another you do, it’s about getting kids to believe in themselves and getting them to work towards a goal. I have often drawn on his experience over the years. I see how much he motivates me and I don’t have to guess how well he does it for his athletes.

Kari DiGiulio, Vice athletic director at La Costa Canyon for 10 years, knows she is losing someone exceptional. “I have been honored to have had the privilege of working alongside Bill throughout my tenure as athletic director,” said DiGiulio. “I like his perspective, his calm, cool and collected demeanor and his ability to identify with his athletes.

“He has coached such exceptional individual talents while always making sure that the cross country environment is for the whole team. His leadership style is admirable. He makes those around him better and that’s all you can ask for of a high school coach and a human being. He was exemplary.

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