As Fairfield Prep boys hockey coach Matt Sather approaches the rare milestone of 300 career wins, on last week he reflected on the impact of that milestone on him as a coach, educator and family man.
This milestone is certainly a reflection of all the great players and assistant coaches Sather has had over the years. But it also is a reflection of Sather’s strength and motivator as Prep’s coach.
Yet, the bottom line for Sather is he sums up the milestone in one word — grateful — as he describes his experience the past 20 seasons as Prep coach leading to his current 298-118-18 career record (as of Monday morning Feb. 12).
“Any time you hit a milestone in life it is a good opportunity to be grateful for all the good things,” Sather said. “First, I am lucky enough to work at a great school that values athletics as a fundamental part of the curriculum.
“I also think a lot about the families that have chosen to send their sons to Fairfield Prep and how humbled I am by their trust. Finally, I think about my own family and how understanding they are because the life and schedule of a coach is tough.”
The top-ranked Jesuits, thanks to the combination of experience, talent and camaraderie, improved to 13-0 this season with an 8-1 win over Notre Dame-Fairfield on Saturday. Sather has set the bar high for today’s statewide high school hockey coaches with success that includes nine CIAC Division I titles.
Sather has certainly created a proven high school hockey model that is conducive to success. With the combination of strong high-profile in-state and out-of-state opponents, he produces the state’s toughest regular season schedule season after season to prepare for the postseason.
“I think creating a tough schedule is a big part of success,” Sather said. “Kids want to be challenged, and competition breeds confidence. However, you also know that if you play this type of schedule, you are going to lose and sometimes you are going to lose big.
“As a coach you have to be able to deal with the negativity of these setbacks. You have to work hard to stay positive and have a developmental plan that includes setbacks. If you can’t respond to tough games effectively or positively you run the risk of losing your team.”
The 2007-08 season is an example of how that tough schedule can transfer to postseason success. The Jesuits went 9-10-1 in the regular season but went on to beat Notre Dame-Fairfield 5-3 in the CIAC D-I tournament final.
Last week’s three out-of-state opponents is a current example of the Jesuits’ tough schedule. Though the Jesuits’ game vs. Massachusetts power Malden Catholic last week was postponed, on Friday and Saturday they competed in the Pope Francis Invitational at the Olympia Ice Center in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
Fairfield Prep lost to Delabarton, New Jersey 5-2 in the semifinal. On Saturday, Prep tied Bishop Hendricken (RI) 5-5 in the consolation game.
Another bottom line for Sather — he doesn’t plan on retiring any time soon.
“Teaching and coaching at Fairfield Prep is what I do for a living,” Sather said. “I am 43 years old, I have 3 children under 10 and I don’t play the lottery. As long as Prep will have me, I think I will be working for quite a while.”