Community MVP: Newhouse inspires a generation of kids through Hartwell Soccer

The Glastonbury Muchachas, the Hartwell Soccer Club’s travel team for girls 14-and-younger, were minutes away from advancing to the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association’s championship game in that age-group division on Oct. 27 at night in Burlington. But their 1-0 lead disappeared in the waning moments, and the young ladies came off the field as a shocked, dejected and shaken group. Naturally, tears wouldn’t be far behind if overtime yielded a loss.

The Muchachas’ spirits needed a boost in the worst way.

Out of the dark, walking on to the field, with his crutches, came head coach Michael J. Newhouse, who had relinquished those duties unofficially to assistant coach Peter McCluskey. Newhouse was receiving treatments for cancer that prevented him from being at every practice and match. But he made it to all the big games, and this was a big spot.

Newhouse came up huge.

“He said, ‘Hey, it’s tied. We’re going into overtime, and we’re going to win,’ ” McCluskey said on June 22, the day after the Michael J. Newhouse 1st Annual Memorial Golf Tournament at Blackledge Country Club in Hebron, the largest event in club history. “They needed to be settled down, and Michael did that,” said McCluskey, himself struggling to hold off his emotions a week shy of the five-month mark of cancer claiming Newhouse’s life. (It was a rare form of oral cancer that had spread to his lungs.) The Muchachas scored twice in overtime for a 3-1 victory and won the Connecticut Cup the following week.

“He was fighting cancer,” McCluskey said. “That was powerful.”

That was vintage Newhouse – in command and showing the depth of how much he cared. Now, his speech is part of his legacy left to the scores of Glastonbury soccer, basketball and baseball players he coached for nine years.

“There are going to be some players who are going to be better people for having played for him,” McCluskey said. “They are going to be stronger.”

Newhouse’s time with Glastonbury’s young athletes will be regarded as legendary in the view of many who worked alongside him.

“We were fortunate to have had him in this club and, to go beyond that, we were fortunate to have had him in this town,” Hartwell president Mary Kay Brophy said of Newhouse, Hartwell’s director of travel teams. “He was always the coach for his kids. He took on a significant leadership role [with travel teams] that was certainly time-consuming. It was a love of his.” Newhouse introduced the Positive Coaching Alliance program to Hartwell, which can only add to his legacy.

Don Longtin, an icon of town sports, worked with Newhouse for four years in girls travel basketball and Little League. “I loved the guy. He was a great partner in sports,” said Longtin, 79, president of the Little League and a basketball association vice president. “He was honest; straight forward; an athletic guy; a good competitor in a nice way; and a very fair main. He exemplified sportsmanship.

“He was an integral part of the travel basketball program,” Longtin said. “When you lose someone like this, you can find a replacement but it will never be the same. You won’t have the same decorum. What was special about Michael was the combination of his decorum and his willingness to impart his knowledge to the kids. He had patience for the kids to learn it. That takes a knack, a special talent. Not every good athlete knows how to do that.”

Newhouse played basketball and baseball at RHAM High School in Hebron before attending Eastern Connecticut. He coached his daughters Hayley, 14, on the Muchachas, and Lyndsey, 12, in basketball and soccer and son Austin, 8, in baseball and basketball. Longtin was the head coach of Austin’s baseball team, with Newhouse the assistant last summer, though Longtin regarded their roles as co-coaches.

The proceeds from the golf tournament, a four-player scramble that attracted 283 players, are going toward the Newhouse Children’s Education Fund for college. There were ceremonies, a tribute read aloud and a symbolic release of balloons during the 20th Glastonbury Hartwell Spring Warm-Up Tournament in late April that attracted 210 teams from New England and New York and brought 15,000 fans, family and players into the area.

All Hartwell travel players received a MJN patch. Newhouse had supervised 500 players among Hartwell’s 30-plus travel teams. The Newhouse family expresses pride in living in Glastonbury, and is thankful for all the wonderful relationships they have enjoyed through Michael’s involvement with youth sports in town.

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