SPRINGFIELD, NJ – Dayton’s Coach Felix Fabiano started coaching the Bulldogs boys soccer team in 1996. The last 17 of those seasons have been winning seasons. The last two seasons, the Jonathan Dayton Bulldogs won the NJSIAA North 2 Group 1 Tournament. Last season the team went 18-4-1 and Coach Fabiano was named Union County Conference Coach of the year.
At the beginning of the season, he said, “This will be a reloading year”. Many new players were filling positions vacated by last year’s graduating seniors. Eight of last year’s starters were seniors on a team that had 13 seniors.
That team had a total of 65 students try out including a group of 24 freshmen totaling 24. The coach said the preseason was used to “…get the players in shape and get them pumped up for the challenge of a new season.”
After the season at the 2017 Sports Awards, Coach Fabiano started off by thanking lots of people including his coaches and all those in the Athletic Department. He also thanked the parents, relatives, friends and fans of Dayton soccer and said “…you were the 12th player on the field.”
Then he said, “We had a great season because the Bulldogs did something difficult, they repeated their success of the prior year as Sectional Champions despite losing 13 seniors from last year’s team.”
One of his Captains, Bryce Forys, said, “Throughout my four years of playing soccer on the JDHS varsity soccer team, there is nobody I have grown closer to than my coach, Coach Fabiano. From day one, Coach Fabs has not only helped me grow into a better player, but also a better leader. He is so deserving of this award due to his love for his players passion for the game. I will greatly miss his friendly and welcoming personality after I graduate this June, as there is truly nobody like Coach Fabs.”
Coach Fabiano also coached bowling and senior Scott Maran was a member of both teams. About the coach, Scott said, "Coach Fabs was a huge part of the team making it to State Semifinals in back-to-back years. He's one of the nicest guys I've ever met and I'm not at all surprised that he won coach of the year"
Coach Fabiano says his approach to coaching “…is more than philosophy. It is about passion and working ethics.” He then said, “Our credo, our philosophy is PRIDE, TRADITION AND FUN.” He expanded on it by saying, “The pride is of representing Jonathan Dayton High School to the best of our ability both on the field and off the field, understanding where we come from and who we are, and remembering that it is a sport and one should have fun.”
He added, “The difficult part is to "sell it to the kids and get them to believe in what I am trying to teach them.” That is important because he wants all “on board” so the team can navigate toward the same objective. He also wants his players “…to enjoy the experience of soccer as much as I enjoy coaching it.”
Coach Fabiano talked about constantly thinking about and finding ways to make sure the players have “the passion for the sport” being aware that not all players are the same. He feels some have the passion by nature, while others he said, “…need to acquire it by positive experience that comes from feeling part of something important.”
To fuel the passion, the coach finds ways to keep the interest in the sport year-round. He keeps communications open with each player. That includes an end of the season evaluation where single and team objectives are discussed, and where ways to improve as a player and as a person are discussed.
There are also events Coach Fabiano puts in place. At the end of the season, the coach hosts a vegetarian dinner to celebrate the season and to “…keep close relationships with players.” At the end of the school year, there is another year-end dinner with player, parents, relatives and coaches. That dinner officially ends the last season and opens a new one.
Besides these dinners, there is an alumni game giving the new players a connection with past Dayton players. Some of those past players according to the coach, “Have made history”. There is a fundraiser benefiting the seniors on the team. Seven seniors received scholarship money last and this year, eight players will receive money from fundraiser this year.
Dayton soccer benefits from the efforts of the Springfield Soccer Club and Coach Fabiano maintains open communications with them to make sure “…we are working toward the same objective.”
Now, a new season is a few months away. There will be many new faces since 12 seniors are graduating this year. Coach Fabiano always keeps things in perspective. He says “Winning is nice but losing is not a tragedy.”
Looking toward the next season, the coach will probably say something like he said last year, “Our initial objective was to have a winning season and make the state tournament.”
He will expect the captains and the few veterans left to convey to the rest of the team our basic philosophy: Pride, tradition, self-discipline, hard work and fun. What he wants is “Having a team that works hard while having fun is a dream of every coach.”
Last year he lived the dream.