Veteran head football coach stepping away for family reasons

Jeff Wasilchak spent the last 22 years as a head football coach.

Next football season, he looks forward to a new chapter: being a dad watching his son play junior high football for the Valley View Cougars.

Wasilchak officially resigned his post as head football coach at Lakeland following the Chiefs’ District 2 Class 3A title contest last Saturday vs. Scranton Prep.

Lakeland (9-3) saw its season end vs. the Cavs.

Stellar Resume

Wasilchak spent his first 11 seasons as head football coach at Lackawanna Trail and the last 11 seasons at Lakeland.

He's compiled a 179-85 mark, including 81-47 at Lakeland, with numerous titles at both stops.

He informed his team of his decision in a post-game talk last Saturday.

“I knew at the beginning of this season that this was my last,” noted Wasilchak.

“My son is in seventh grade and I don’t want to miss the experience of watching him play.”

Wasilchak, whose dad (Jerry) was a successful head football coach at Lakeland and was memorialized with the fieldhouse facility named in his honor, noted all 22 teams and seasons were special to him.

“Every season presents different challenges,” said Wasilchak. “You remember some seasons more than others but you remember something about every season.”

During 22 seasons, Wasilchak has seen some changes surrounding the sport.

On the gridiron, he’s seen changes in the game.

“The game has evolved to a more wide-open game offensively and more aggressive, blitzing game defensively,” said Wasilchak.

While the game has changed, Wasilchak doesn’t believe the key to success has changed.

“Fundamentals above everything else,” opined Wasilchak. When asked what advice he would give to a young coach, Wasilchak said: “Treat kids like you would want your kids to be treated.”

He’s also seen other changes during a lengthy time in the game.

“Kids have a lot more options today, so there is less participation. High school sports were more of a community event years ago. A rivalry game would fill the place. Not today.”

For years, Wasilchak would seek a quiet place for 30-45 minutes before a game to collect his thoughts. Years ago, his dad would walk along a trail near Lakeland’s home field in Mayfield before a game to collect his thoughts.

Next season before games, Wasilchak will most likely develop a different routine before taking in his new role as spectator.

Next season, he will also experience another adjustment. There will be no coaching preparation.

“That’s what I will miss the most,” said Wasilchak.

“I really enjoyed the preparation and the competition. I’ll miss the camaraderie you develop.”