Vonada tenders resignation as the Leopards’ coach

Hernando Head Coach Bill Vonada tendered his resignation Wednesday in Brooksville. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

FOOTBALL

The 19-year mentor

steps down as Hernando

County’s winningest coach

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

Two days prior to the Leopards pre-season spring game in Land O’ Lakes against Sunlake High, veteran Hernando County teacher William “Bill” Vonada officially tendered his resignation at Hernando High.

Bill Vonada

Vonada, guided the Leopards for the past four seasons, compiling an overall 17-21 won-lost slate, highlighted by last season’s district championship.

Prior to that, Vonada served as the head coach at F.W. Springstead in Spring Hill for 15 seasons.

Across 19 seasons along the sidelines, the SHS alumnus was named Hernando County Coach of the Year six times (2003, 04, 05, 10, 12, 17).

His teams produced six Hernando County football titles (2003, 04, 05, 08, 12, 14) and he’s one of only five local mentors to win a pair of district championships (2012, 17).

Vonada’s the only local skipper to garner district titles at two Hernando County programs (SHS and HHS).

In over a century of football, Vonada departs as the Hernando County record holder in most games coached (192), most wins (97) and most losses (95).

His teams averaged 20.4 points per game and his teams yielded an average of 20.3 ppg.

Yet, there was much more than the numbers to his equation.

Vonada’s team were often described as “well coached and disciplined.”

Few head football coaches can ever say they double as Sunday school bible studies mentors, but Vonada can.

As a man of faith, he was equally known as a man of high character and a developer of young men.

Again, in a departure from most football coaches, winning to a back seat to character issues.

Bill Vonada                                                   Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

Vonada penned the following resignation letter.

“I have recently realized that I am either too old or too young to just play games when it comes to coaching. In other words, high school athletics for me is not just about passing time or doing something for amusement. There are two parts to this thought process:

 

If we are keeping score, we are playing to win.

It has to be about something more than the score and trophy.

Coaching for me has usually included something more: Core values and priorities. I have found that this has made me a better person, as it has caused me to continually examine and improve my own core values and priorities, so that I might be a more effective coach and teacher. In the realm of high school football, both the need and the cost of winning has never been higher:

NEED—Sports are so much more visible than they used to be; patience is much less existent. Players, parents, and communities all want a winner, as it is sure to propel them onto bigger and better things. A coach can be a sensation one year, on “the hot seat” the next, and can be the hottest commodity around after that. It’s all part of the deal when you are cashing in the big-time paycheck of coaching (high school coaches who read this are laughing loudly now).

COST—The arms race is not just limited to powerful countries, but has developed its own niche in football. Teams are constantly searching for the new product, scheme, or activity that will put them over the top. More and more resources (time and money) are used to take a program to the next level. Improvement must be constant; if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. The increased cost of football means a couple of things:

If a team is going to be competitive, they have to be willing to pay the price. If they want to be champions, they have to go above-and-beyond the average. There is no way around this—the price for victory must paid or it cannot be obtained.

If parts of the program are not willing to ante up their share, others must pay more from their resources. The demands of the job are growing—not only in the area of “what it takes to win”, but also in what is expected of the coach. He is expected to not only win, but also: to get his players to college; solve all problems associated with members of the program (“Your star can’t remember to bring a pencil to class and drives too fast in the parking lot; what are you going to do about it?”); and, to be on call most hours of the day.

The hindrances for coaching are growing. Things like increased paperwork requirements (currently 7 different forms for every player) combined with lack of access to facilities make the job harder. The demands of the job are growing; the hindrances to the job are growing; the resources are not. I find myself lacking resources. My choices then become to change the priorities of the program (character development and winning), change my values and priorities in order to make up the difference, or change the leadership of the program.

I find that I can no longer be the type of person I want to be and still run the type of program I want to run in the current environment. It is for these reasons that I have decided to tender my resignation as Head Football Coach of Hernando High School. I have enjoyed the experience of working with some excellent people while here, and thank you for the opportunity to do so. I wish you continued good fortune with both the success of your program and in the development of the young men of character that our world so desperately needs.”

The loss of Vonada

Springstead High School’s current Head Coach Mike Garofano is a protégé of Vonada.

Mike Garofano

“I don’t know why he stepped down at this time. He said it was many things,” explained the sixth-year Eagles mentor, who served as Vonada’s defensive coordinator for over a decade.

“Bill was a mentor, a father figure, a counselor to many present and former coaches,” detailed Garofano. “He was a great mentor to me. To him, it’s not all about the wins and losses, its more about building men of character. There just aren’t many cut from the same cloth like him.

“His vision? It’s to develop student/athletes to be productive citizens, not all about winning games. He always preached about doing things the right way. That’s something that I’ve really taken to heart,” added Garofano.

On what he’ll miss most, “We coached side-by-side for years. There were certain sayings, I’ll never forget those rather than the times we competed against each other.”

On whether Vonada would attempt another crack at politics? He lost in first opportunity for the Hernando County school board.

“Bill has a higher calling; that’s who he is,” noted Garofano. “Our county needs people like Mrs. (Susan) Duval and Bill on the school board.

“I know one thing, he’s not the kind of guy to sit around and wait for anything. If he choose to comeback, say as an assistant coach, I’d welcome him back in a heartbeat.

“… Right now, you’re guess is as good as mine as to what his next step will be.“

Tom Bronson Jr.

Hernando High’s Quarterback Club President Tom Bronson was reached in Perry, Fla. for a comment.

“I appreciate Bill’s time at HHS,” said Bronson. “A lot of times when a coach steps down, he’s leaving a program in bad shape.

“Well, that’s not the case at Hernando High. The future looks strong. We’ve got some good athletes coming back and the younger guys are stepping up.”

“Right now, we‘ve got a great staff on board. To me, Bill is simply handing the ball off to our assistants. We’re in good shape,” Bronson stressed. “This an extremely attractive position. Due to the timing, it would be a short time period for a new coach to implement his system (before next season).”

HHS’ current athletic director Kevin Bittinger, looked back fondly on the Vonada hire.

Kevin Bittinger

“What’s not to like?,” suggested Bittinger. “When you look back. Whenever a coach leaves, you’ve always got to look at the bigger picture.

“Bill changed the direction of Hernando High football. Today is not a dark day, I’m not saying that I won’t miss him, because I will. But we have a good group of assistant coaches.

“You gotta remember, when Bill came aboard, our program was in crisis. He was the exact perfect guy for the job,” stated Bittinger. “He’s a guy who stuck to his guns and transformed our program.”

On what Vonada brought to the table, “Some guys are just looking for athletes and wins, others are attempting to increase the character factor, others are pushing to get kids into college,” emphasized Bittinger. “Well, Bill Vonada did it all. And he did it in four years.”

“Sure it stinks that we’re losing such a great head coach, but think of the blessings he’s brought to our student/athletes. Here’s a guy who is what you need in high school sports across the board.”

On what he’ll miss most, “I’ll miss getting to know the person. People outside of campus, don’t understand the pressures of high school coaching. The expectations are through the roof. Yet, many of us are willing to accept the responsibility.

“Bill has taught me a lot. Why wouldn’t I not miss that?,” insisted Bittinger. “He’s a person any coach, young or old, should go to for advice.”

On where the Leopards go from here, “The position will be posted, probably by Monday,” explained Bittinger. “The next thing we’ll do is set up a search committee. My job is to find the best candidate for the job. (Principal) Miss Booker will make the ultimate decision on who is hired.

“… With Bill, the foundation of the future has been laid,” added the HHS AD. “Now, the search is on for the best person for the job. We’d like to have him aboard before the summer workouts.”

By the Numbers: William “Bill” Vonada

(1998-17/19 Seasons)

– Compiled by TONY CASTRO

Bill Vonada                                        Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YR

 

W

 

L

 

.PCT

 

PS

 

PA

1998

4

5

.444

149

193

1999

0

10

.000

69

310

2000

3

7

.300

108

205

2001

6

4

.600

205

116

2002

2

8

.200

158

277

2003$

7

3

.700

243

178

2004$

8

3

.727

297

213

2005$

8

3

.727

276

181

2006

5

5

.500

164

178

2007

5

5

.500

182

201

2008

7

3

.700

280

112

2009

5

5

.500

188

231

2010$

7

5

.583

252

240

2011

4

6

.400

173

281

2012$

9

2

.818

288

101

2014

3

6

.333

151

244

2015

3

7

.300

145

326

2016

4

5

.444

196

171

2017$

7

3

.700

384

133

 

TOT

 

97

 

95

 

.505

 

3,9088

 

3,891

$ Denotes Hernando County Coach of the Year.

 

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