By Ryan Fennell
Rumson – Sometimes the right decision is the hardest decision.
Stepping down as the head coach of a football program that, during his tenure, has won five division titles, reached the state sectional final three out of the last six years, and won the first sectional title in program history in 2010, is certainly a difficult decision to make.
But, for former Rumson-Fair Haven head coach Shane Fallon it was the right decision.
Fallon resigned as head coach of the RFH football team last week after 15 years at the helm to pursue a master’s degree in educational leadership and to focus more of his attention on his two young children, ages 8 and 2.
Fallon became an assistant coach for the Bulldogs immediately following his graduation from college and two years later became the head coach of the program at the age of 25.
“I really enjoy it. It’s a great job, but my life’s changed a lot in the last 17 years,” Fallon said. “I’ve gotten married, I have two little kids, and I’ve always wanted to go back for my master’s degree but kept putting it off.
“In deciding that it was something I really wanted to do, something had to give in my life. It was a tough choice, but ultimately, I think it was the right choice.”
Although Fallon has not yet decided on an academic institution to attend, his goal is to earn his masters in educational leadership so that if an opportunity arises in the future that would allow him to serve in an administrative role he would be in a position to pursue it.
“It’s a move for my future and a move for my children’s future,” he said. “I do have other goals and other ways I hope I can impact students’ lives.”
While Fallon believes he’s made the right decision for him and his family, he admits it was not easy breaking the news to his team.
“It’s hard to tell a bunch of 15, 16, 17 year olds that your leaving them from coaching. I told them I’m not walking out on your lives. I’ll still be seeing you in the hallways and in the classrooms.”
Fallon is a health and physical education teacher at RFH and also serves as the Assistant Athletic Director.
“No matter when you leave, there’s never a right time,” he said. “You’re always leaving an upcoming senior class and a group of kids who’ve bought into everything you’ve been selling for the last three years.
“For them it’s very difficult and hard to understand – I get that. But, ultimately, I’ve been coaching for 17 years and it’s time for me to focus on my children and their future and that’s the decision that I made. Was it an easy decision? No. I think the harder decisions in life are usually the most rewarding.”
For Fallon, his time as the head coach wasn’t about him or padding his resume. It was about building a program, and he believes he, his coaching staff, and the administration at the high school built a strong one that has taught its student-athletes to deal with adversity.
“We constantly teach them throughout the season about dealing with adversity and communicating well with your teachers and people in the community. I tell them all the time you’re going to deal with a lot of ups and downs and how you deal with the adversity is what counts.”
Fallon also feels comfortable that although his tenure as head coach has come to an end, the success of the program is not at risk because of the work he and his staff, along with support from the administration at RFH, has built a strong, exciting program.
“Anytime you do anything in life you always want to leave something in a better place than where you started or where you found it, and I think we’ve been able to do that at Rumson-Fair Haven.
“We’ve got a great feeder system, a great coaching staff, and we’re real proud of not only the success we’ve had, but also the memories we’ve created and the life lessons we were able to teach to all the players that have played in our program in the last 15 years. It’s certainly been a rewarding experience.”
Having led Rumson-Fair Haven to 106 wins with only 51 losses over the last 15 years and reaching the state finals three times, winning the first in program history in 2010, Fallon is leaving the program in considerably fine shape for the coaching candidate that steps into his shoes on the sidelines next season.
With the youth program feeding the high school program, participation at the high school is approximately 80 athletes on varsity and junior varsity with another 40 on the freshman squad.
Because of the success on the field and the program he and his coaching staff have built, Fallon expects a number of quality applicants expressing interest in the position.
“The next head coach is stepping into a very good situation,” he said. “I’ll be rooting for the kids and for the new coach to have as much, if not more, success than I was able to have, because it wasn’t about me as a head coach, it was about building a successful program. I think we’ve built a program that’s been successful and will continue to be successful.”
Fallon said there would be an interview process conducted by Athletic Director Walt Reiser and other members of the school’s administration, but that he will not be a part of that process.
“I will not be a part of the selection process nor would I want to be.”
But what about that first cool breeze in early September carrying the scent of dirt and grass and mud signaling the coming of the marching bands and cheering fans over the crunch and crash of another 6 for the purple and white?
“People have said to me are you going to miss football and the answer is yes, of course I’m going to miss it,” Fallon said. “August is going to roll around and that itch, it’ll certainly be there. But, I’m at peace with the decision that I made.”