Mt. Abe hires alum to coach boys' soccer
BRISTOL — Mount Abraham Union High School did not have to look far for a new boys’ soccer coach after Bob Russell stepped down after the fall season, just as the search that picked Russell to succeed longtime Coach Mike Corey three years ago did not cast a wide net.
Russell, a teacher at Mount Abe, had moved up from a successful stint as the Eagle junior varsity coach, and now 2014 Mount Abe alumnus Rider MacCrellish — a member of the 2013 Eagle championship team — is doing the same.
MacCrellish had signed on as a middle school coach in 2016, and then took over the boys’ JV team when Russell moved up to varsity three years ago.
Mount Abe Athletic Director Devin Wendel said promoting MacCrellish was not a difficult decision, adding he had received strong reviews from student-athletes.
“Rider was the right choice for us,” Wendel said. “He’s somebody who cares deeply about each and every member of the team. He’s somebody who puts that extra effort in before, during and after practice to get to know the kids, to get to know their families, to instill that sense of community.”
Wendel added that MacCrellish’s caring comes with expectations for the student-athletes.
“Rider goes a good job in making sure kids hold themselves to a high standard,” he said. “There’s a lot of onus put on self-accountability, and the ability to hold those around you to that same accountability level.”
Wendel said Russell made the decision to step down because he lives in Chittenden County and is the father of three young children, with whom he would like to be able to spend more time.
Russell’s teams compiled a 16-20-4 record, and his teams routinely displayed sportsmanship, chemistry and spirit. In 2019 the Eagles went 9-5-2 and won a playoff game before losing to a Middlebury team that reached the final.
Wendel spoke on Russell’s “dedication to the program” and the intangibles his teams displayed.
“We define success in many more ways than winning,” he said. “One of them (is) learning how to be a good teammate, how to work well with others and have that inner drive and hold yourself to high standards. And I think especially as Bob’s three-year career evolved, all of that stuff evolved with it.”
MacCrellish was asked why he wanted to get into coaching, and his first response focused on intangibles.
“I always had an interest in the potential of coaching even when I was still just a player in high school,” he said in an email.
“My experience with my high school soccer team was very positive, and I knew the value of the close relationships we built in that context. I imagined somewhere down the road I could help to facilitate creating a similar environment for boys that followed in our footsteps.”
As an undergraduate MacCrellish lived in New Haven, but after graduated has moved to Bristol, not far from Mount Abe. MacCrellish said he has been working in the building trades since high school.
In 2017 he started his own residential contracting company, Mountain Builders LLC, allowing him to schedule time for coaching, mountain biking, skiing, playing hockey and waterskiing.
His coaching influences probably started before his high school years, when he regularly attended the annual soccer camps Mike Corey ran at Mount Abe, as well as others jointly operated by former Middlebury College coaches Dave Saward and Ron McEachen. MacCrellish said he hopes to continue to learn from others.
“I remember particularly at Mike’s camp watching the varsity players doing little demos and being excited about the idea of one day being one of those guys,” he said. “Now that I’m at the varsity level I’m excited to be more involved speaking with fellow coaches and program directors and learning from the great experience and wisdom that so many of these older generation coaches have.”
MacCrellish said he is especially happy to be coaching at his alma mater, and he hopes to find ways to “deepen the connection” between the program and the community, possibly by inviting younger players to join Saturday practices, for example.
“I felt invested in this community. I had connections with the families who I knew would have boys coming up through the soccer program in years to come,” he said.
“I was excited for the potential of getting to watch those boys grow up and then come into a program that I was coaching. This idea made me feel like I would be giving something back to a community that was always supportive of me.”
MacCrellish also said he would emphasize “work ethic” and “accountability” to the Eagles, and added he could also emulate another Eagle coach and program.
“We are going to work extremely hard this year in our practice sessions. I have a very dedicated group that is excited to get on the ball and get legs back under us,” he said. “I look at programs like the varsity field hockey program at Mount Abe, and I have such admiration for Mary Stetson’s approach. Her training sessions are continuous and focused and her results show that.”
But that does not mean the Eagles won’t have fun.
“Great teams have the ability to transition quickly between intensely competitive, serious moments and light moments of levity and play,” MacCrellish said. “I have developed such close relationships with these boys over the years I’ve coached them, I feel that we have immense mutual respect. That respect helps us navigate that fine line between having a great time and pushing hard towards the goals we want.”
And those goals include those intangibles.
“Helping to shape the capabilities and confidence of the young men in the boys’ soccer program has brought immense meaning to my life,” MacCrellish said. “These boys inspire me with their ability to learn, to work, and to love each other. I am excited for the chapter ahead.”