BY JEFF FALK He was undoubtedly the most successful soccer coach that these parts have ever seen. And he was certainly one of the finest coaches in Lebanon County ever.
But who made who?
Was the Elco boys’ soccer program successful because Mike Seigfried headed it? Or was Seigfried successful because he coached the Raiders?
Sounds like the old ‘chicken and the egg’ argument with a twist.
This week, Seigfried retired from his position as the head coach of the Elco boys’ soccer program. What he took with him was countless wins, numerous championships and a legacy that will endure the test of time.
“You’re putting me in some big-time company,” said Seigfried. “Lebanon County has quite a tradition in soccer. Maybe it was just the longevity of it. I was lucky to be there and have some great teams and great players. I was just kind of the gate keeper.
“There are a lot of reasons for the success,” Seigfried continued. “Part of it is the tradition that started in the 1950s. We have a lot of kids whose fathers played at Elco, and some whose grandfathers did. It’s important to the community. The kids are into Elco soccer. A lot of it was established when I took over.”
Seigfried’s numbered credentials speak for themselves. In his 26 years at the Raider helm, Seigfried-fronted squads went 412-192-34, a winning percentage of .670. Elco won three state championships, five District Three titles and wore nine Lancaster-Lebanon League section crowns.
“The bus rides!,” said Seigfried, sarastically when asked what he’ll miss about coaching. “No, I’ll miss the kids, the comraderie with the coaches, the competition of game day. I won’t miss the red tape of getting on the field, the distractions outside the game. We just want to play.”
While he came into the program on a high note, Seigfried certainly didn’t go out on one. This season’s version of the Raiders went 6-11 and missed the district playoffs for only the fifth time in his tenure.
“I wouldn’t call it a disappointment,” said Seigfried. “It seemed like we had some really good players. We just didn’t have the quantity of good players. We got some tough breaks. We lost some tough games.
“I think the program is real healthy,” Seigfried added. “Our JV team showed a lot of promise. Our junior high team lost one game this year. It’s coming. The eighth and ninth-graders are especially strong.”
Seigfried insisted that this season’s struggles had nothing to do with his decision to step aside. Instead, it was a yearning to see his daughter play Division One soccer at Temple and his impeccable sense of timing.
“When I actually announced it, I think the kids knew,” said Seigfried, who will remain in his position of health and physical education at the Elco High School. “It was the last game of the season, everyone was there, so I just decided the time was right to tell everyone. We had kind of a tough season and it was hard for me to spit out. It was hard to say it, even though I knew it in my heart.
“It had nothing to do with the team. It had nothing do with the season,” added Seigfried. “I made the decision well before the season started. I made it last year some time or maybe two years ago. I just said, ‘That’s it. I did it long enough.'”
A graduate of Lock Haven, Seigfried came to Myerstown in 1986, following a four-year coaching stint at Community College of Philadelphia. In that first season, the Raiders went 19-8-2 and won the second of their four state titles.
“No, I didn’t expect to spend 26 years here,” said Seigfried, a resident of Lititz. “My vision at the time was to coach seven, eight, nine years and then take a college job. But divorce, custody battles and mixed familes have a way of changing things. That kept me at Elco. I was going to resign one time, but my daughters talked me out of it. They said, ‘You enjoy it too much’.
“In high school soccer, the talent is cyclical,” continued Seigfried. “The last few years we certainly haven’t set the world on fire.”