Matt Renola recalls what it was like growing up to play on some of the upper fields at A.W. Cox Elementary School in Guilford.
“Those were the fields that Adam and I grew up playing on. They have been redone over the last 10 years, but it was a minefield when we played on it,” Renola said.
Adam is Adam Cohen, like Renola, a former standout soccer player at Guilford. He is the longtime women’s soccer coach at Southern Connecticut State University.
The two men, along with a handful of others, were able to help make a push to rename the two fields at Three Mile Course Park, the upper fields at Cox, in honor of their longtime high school coach, Bill Wallach.
That happened last August. They will be called The Bill Wallach Soccer Fields.
“We felt this honor was long overdue,” said Renola, who played for Wallach from 1983-87 and was a part of winning three state championships. “We felt we needed to do something to honor him. He has given so much to the community.”
Wallach, an East Haven resident, coached at Guilford for more than two decades. He said he couldn’t believe it when he was told about the fields.
“They had to go through lot of work to get this thing pushed through,” said Wallach, who will turn 81 on Saturday. “It’s a blessing that they did this. A lot of work went into it.”
Joining Renola and Cohen on the committee were Meg Malatesta, Tina Pihl, Kathryn Bateman, Jamie Miller and Elisa Milano. All played for Wallach.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a dedication ceremony has been delayed. Cohen and Renola said the hope is for it to happen some time in September.
The committee is currently seeking donations through the Guilford Parks and Recreation website. Donations will go toward the dedication in addition to any improvements made in the fields themselves by the parks and recreation department.
Wallach also coached soccer for both the North Branford and Sacred Heart Academy girls’ programs, in addition to brief stints at the men’s college programs at the University of New Haven and Quinnipiac College.
Wallach was also a longtime teacher and was involved in helping volunteer with Unified Sports.
“It’s incredible. Something like this never occurred to me that it could happen. I’m just a coach, a teacher of the game,” Wallach said.
Wallach won six CIAC state championships with the Guilford boys program, three apiece in the 1970s and 1980s. He posted an overall record of 220-13-9 at Guilford, which included a three-year stint with the girls program (1997-99).
That record includes 11 Shoreline Conference championships with the boys’ program.
“He put me in a leadership position (to succeed) and would ask me for advice,” said Cohen, who was a part of two state championships at Guilford. “I would not be anywhere close to where I am now if it wasn’t for what he taught me, like how to treat people. The life lessons I teach my kids are because of Coach Wallach.”
Wallach has been inducted into the Connecticut High School Coaches Hall of Fame and the Connecticut Soccer Hall of Fame. He has a Gold Key Award from the Connecticut Sportswriter’s Alliance and he was the Connecticut Soccer Coaches’ Association Coach of the Year Award in 1978.
But Wallach said the fields being named after him is the best honor he has received.
“This means more to me than any of the awards,” Wallach said. “I’ve always told the players, ‘Be the best you can be and don’t hurt anyone. I don’t care if you are a bricklayer, a plumber, an electrician, a doctor or a lawyer, be the best you can be and don’t hurt anybody.’ They all did that, all of the hundreds who came through. We had a great time together.”