As Coach Dale Mylin reflected on his 500th game at the helm of the varsity boys soccer squad, he sounded an uncharacteristically solemn and fatalistic note.
“You don’t set out planning to do something for X number of years, but the days, weeks and months tick away and one day, here you are.”
That apparent solemnity lasted about six seconds.
“What better thing in life is there than to truly enjoy what you’re doing?” he asked. “I really enjoy coming into work every day. I really enjoy coaching every day; it’s a calling,” Mylin said.
Now in his 33rd year at Country Day, Mylin has head-coached varsity boys soccer for 29 of those years. (And in fact, when one adds in the basketball, baseball and lacrosse games he’s coached, the total climbs north of 760.) Mylin earned his 300th soccer win last season.
In addition to coaching, Mylin has also served as a PE teacher and Country Day’s first athletic director. These positions have allowed him to interact with, influence and “help develop” students’ character from kindergarten to 12th grade.
“There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a kid in the graduation line who you’ve watched grow up and become the person they are, and congratulating them,” Mylin said. “Most teachers in most schools don’t get the chance to see them in that complete way, and to be able to be a small part of those 12 years is pretty special.”
That contact with students yields myriad benefits in the classroom, in the hallways and on the pitch.
Over the decades, his coaching philosophy has become acutely focused on the team overall, and the passing game more specifically. “When a player touches the ball, I want his first thought to be who am I going to pass to, not who am I going to beat,” Mylin said.
This team-first approach has occasionally led Mylin to difficult decisions and conversations with players. “It’s happened more than once that I’ve had to say to a kid, ‘You might be the better individual player, but the guy on the field is better for the team.’”
Mylin continued, “An average player who works hard, with the mental focus and conditioning to play 80 minutes will get a starting spot over the player who’s a flashier individual talent, but who thinks of himself first and the team second.”
That’s not to say that Mylin’s averse to fleet-footed footballers on his squad. Quite the opposite. “What I want to do is to put those franchise players in a position to direct the game, where the game flows through them and they can control it and dictate play, but the ultimate focus always comes back to the team,” Mylin said.
The coach, relentlessly upbeat and inspirational, keeps his eyes on the horizon. “I’ve never seen a perfectly officiated game. I’ve never seen a perfectly played game and I’ve never coached a perfect game,” Mylin said.
One can’t help getting the impression that Mylin has no plan to give up any of those pursuits any time in the near future.