NAUGATUCK — After 24 years of coaching in the Naugatuck High School girls volleyball program and promoting the sport, Fred Scheithe is calling it a career.
Scheithe said he is retiring from his volleyball head coaching position at Naugy and made the decision shortly after the 2012 season.
“You know when it’s time to go,” Scheithe said. “You just have that feeling.”
He has spent the better part of three decades building the Greyhounds program, developing talent and being an ambassador for volleyball to an entire town and athletic conference. And it all started as a favor to the then-head coach in 1988.
“A spot opened up on the coaching staff and Lisa Green said, ‘I need a favor,’ and asked if I would be willing to help out until they found someone,” Scheithe explained.
His transition to volleyball was made easy because of his coaching involvement at Hillside Middle School. He already knew most of the players.
“I knew nothing about volleyball, but I knew the girls on the team,” Scheithe said. “The rest is history.”
Scheithe set the tone as coach in his first match, a JV contest in Wolcott. At that time, there was no rally scoring and it was best of three games to 15 points.
“We lost game one 15-1,” Scheithe recalled. “We lost 2-0. I said this will never happen again. It showed how unprepared and how little I knew about volleyball, but from that point on it just took off.”
Scheithe went on to lead several undefeated JV teams. He said he owed a lot to former Naugy athletic director Bob Couette and much of his fundamental knowledge of the volleyball to Green, who was a student of Scheithe’s during his teaching career in the Naugatuck school system.
“Lisa was a huge help to me, I learned a lot,” Scheithe said. “The student became the teacher at that point.”
Scheithe took over the varsity team at Naugy in 1998. Several years later, he led the Greyhounds to one of their best seasons in recent history.
The ‘Hounds had a memorable season in 2001. During the regular season, Naugy traveled to Wolcott for a memorable three-hour match.
“I remember the gym was packed,” Scheithe recalled. “Wolcott was undefeated. We lost the first two games and fell behind 14-6, which was match point, in the third.”
The Greyhounds came back to win the third game, 16-14. The fourth game lasted 45 minutes before Naugy won, 17-15, and the ‘Hounds overpowered Wolcott in the fifth by a score of 15-3.
Naugy went on to win the NVL tournament and beat Wolcott in the championship match. The Greyhounds finished the season 14-4 and won two state tournament games before losing in the quarterfinals.
Throughout his tenure, Scheithe helped make volleyball a more prominent sport in the borough. He started an annual volleyball summer camp, summer league that involved towns in the area and a scholarship program for Naugy seniors.
Scheithe also started an annual alumni game that brought back former players and instilled a connection from year to year.
For Scheithe, the relationships built over the past 24 years on the sidelines were the best part of the job.
“I was able to develop friendships with former players and their parents,” Scheithe said. “That’s probably the best part of being a coach. It was more than just volleyball. If I taught these kids more about life than volleyball, then I was successful.”