First-Year Coaches Primed for Success With Area Programs

Nick Libera, Cliff Parker and Matt Warner are each facing the same exciting challenge at different area schools this season. The trio have taken over successful programs at RHAM, Glastonbury and Cromwell High Schools. Libera is coaching RHAM girls soccer, Parke Cromwell boys soccer and Warner Glastonbury girls volleyball.

Each coach took their job for different reasons. Libera came to RHAM from Middletown, where he compiled a 45-10-2 record over three seasons before resigning. Libera said he made this decision due “philosophical differences” with the MHS administration. When Libera saw that the RHAM job was open, he immediately applied. Since being hired, Libera said that he has appreciated the administration’s ability to “give me freedom while also taking everyone’s opinion into consideration.”

Parker already had a decades-long connection to the Panthers program before becoming head coach. Both Parker and his two sons played for it, and the lifelong resident helped run the Cromwell Chill Soccer Club for two decades, where he coached many current Panthers players.

“I love the game and teaching kids,” Parker said. ”I’ve known many of the current players for a long time, and it seemed that becoming head coach was a natural transition.”

Warner is a former head coach at East Hampton and served as an assistant at Mercy last season, and has also coached for the Husky Volleyball junior program. Warner was looking to return to head coaching, and decided that Glastonbury was the perfect program to join.

“I had a good familiarity with the program and wanted to coach at a larger school,” he said. “With GHS, I have the opportunity to extend the success of a strong program.”

While the trio have only headed their programs for a short time, each said that they have enjoyed coaching their players immensely.

“The kids have had a great attitude towards myself and one another,” Libera said. “They have are working hard to make themselves better.”

“I love being with these kids,” Parker said. “They enjoy being coached and appreciate what I try and teach them.”

Libera, Parker and Warner follow similar coaching philosophies.

“I try to bring a cooperative style to coaching,” Libera said. “I always make sure to respect the players and welcome their input. By doing this, our team can get better every day while having fun.”

“I put a lot of emphasis on doing our training and getting better in practice,” Parker said. “When it comes to games, I give players a lot of freedom. “The decisions we make or style we play in games is mostly determined by them.”

“’I’m always looking for feedback from the players about how we’re performing and what we can maybe do differently as a team,” Warner said. “I never want it to be my way or the highway.”

Each coach has so far been pleased with its team’s performance in practice and earliest games. As of September 17th, RHAM is 2-0 , Cromwell is 0-1-1, and Glastonbury has recorded three shutouts.

“The girls have already displayed a lot of improvement and great chemistry over the last few weeks,” Libera said. “To continue to be successful, we must be a possession-style team that both attacks and defends as a unit.”

“We’re facing a big challenge after having graduated 7 players, but the guys are getting better and giving great effort,” Parker said. “Valley is a strong team and we played them well twice. Success will come for us if everyone is communicating well and on the same page.

“The players have been building chemistry and improving their skills, and you can see that in our game results,” Warner said. “They must continue to buy in and trust one another for the team to play to its potential.”

Libera, Parker and Warner believe that their teams are very capable of finishing with strong regular season records and being serious contenders come tournament time. Both Libera and Warner said that RHAM and Glastonbury would compete for top seeds in the CCC and state tournaments, while Parker believes Cromwell can finish with a solid record and win a tournament game.

Each coach said they are determined to stay with their programs for a long time.

“I want to continue to maintain a legacy of success at RHAM for a long time. I look forward to establishing a lasting relationship with players, and to hopefully winning a championship someday,” Libera said.

“I want this to be a long-term job where I can prepare kids for college in different ways. It is another way I can do what I love-working with this age group,” Parker said.

“At Glastonbury, I have the chance to run a great program and work with talented players, so I definitely want to stay for a while,” Warner said.

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