After nine years as a coach and three as head coach, Joe DeVellis has made the difficult decision to step down as the head football coach at Westhill.
DeVellis said the decision was among the toughest he has ever made, but he finally understands why coaches leave jobs once they have families.
DeVellis and his wife Kim, who is a teacher in Stamford and the Westhill girls lacrosse coach, have a daughter approaching her first birthday and for the last year DeVellis has been teaching middle school in Monroe after years teaching at Westhill.
“As a younger coach I always questioned it when I saw a coach stepping down to spend more time with their family. Then you have a kid and it’s real, especially when they are little and growing up” DeVellis said. “I benefitted from being home so much because of the lockdown and being around her so much her first year and that made me realize how important that is. With the commute home on the Parkway after practices this fall I would get home and she would be in bed. I was going whole days without seeing her and that was hard.”
Realizing what was right for his family did not make telling his players an easier.
“It was an extremely emotional night for me telling the kids. The kids make it so tough to leave,” DeVellis said. “I was ready to leave for a job closer to home three years ago, but when the head coaching job opened I came back out of loyalty to the kids and the school. They are what brought me back. I know what they go through every day and how hard they work.”
DeVellis’ run as head coach at Westhill was as unusual as any three years could be.
First ,he was hired as head coach just six weeks prior to the start of the 2018 season.
With the uncertainty around the program prior to his hiring, several players left the team and the school all together.
That left DeVellis not just short on time but also short on players.
Still, he rallied the team, losing a close game opening night to Ludlowe 29-21.
DeVellis would pick up his first win five games into the season with a 32-12 victory over Capital Prep/Achievement.
His second year, DeVellis was faced with rebuilding a team which took heavy graduation losses and the team struggled, winning just one game.
His third year as coach would be his most difficult as the season was canceled by the CIAC due to COVID-19 restrictions against football mandated by the state Department of Health.
DeVellis was coaching the team through 7-on-7 competitions this fall, but when a private football league formed, 20 players from his team left to pursue that opportunity.
“I feel like we never got traction in the three years. Looking back, I do regret not having that final chapter this past season with the kids who went through so much the two years before,” DeVellis said. “Looking back on the nine years, it was about the journey, not the destination. It was about the daily ins and outs and time with the players and coaches.”
He said the last three years were hard on the players but he is proud of those who remained with the team working toward the future of the program.
“I am thankful for those kids who stuck it out,” DeVellis said. “I appreciate the kids so much that showed up every day. It was not easy to go to practice every day when they are getting beaten up every game and losing every game. All the credit to those kids who kept coming back. I think they will have a good team next year because of those kids.”
DeVellis played football for Newtown High School, graduating in 2007.
He graduated from Southern Connecticut University and took his first coaching job the following fall as a defensive back/wide receiver coach at O’Brien Tech.
The following year DeVellis got a job teaching special education at Westhill and joined Frank Marcucio’s staff as a defensive coach before being promoted to defensive coordinator prior to the 2015 season.
Prior to the 2018 season, DeVellis had taken a job as the defensive coordinator at Jonathan Law High School in Milford.
When Marcucio abruptly left the program in July of 2018, DeVellis applied for and got the head coaching spot at Westhill, where he was still employed as a teacher.
He also was an assistant coach for the girls basketball and girls lacrosse teams at Westhill.
DeVellis said coaching is in his blood and he foresees a return to the sidelines at some point, though likely as an assistant while he still has young children of his own.
“I love coaching. Whether it was football, or basketball, or girls lacrosse, coaching is what I do,” DeVellis said. “In the future, taking an assistant job would be a much less time-consuming effort. I feel confident I will be back on a sideline at some point.”