Passion for the game

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 28, 2003

We’ve all heard stories about athletes or coaches so consumed in their sport it’s as much a part of their life as eating or sleeping.

For Elia Romano, it’s not much of a stretch.

Ever since he was named Albert Lea’s C-squad boys’ soccer coach two years ago, Romano said he goes to bed thinking of the team and, every morning, he wakes up eager to get back to practice.

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These days, his decisions carry a little more weight.

Romano, 29, is the new head coach for the Albert Lea High School boys’ soccer team. And so far, he’s enjoying every minute of it.

&uot;Coaching has become a passion for me over the last few years,&uot; said Romano. &uot;I have never had a job that was as rewarding or that I enjoyed as much. It is a great bunch of boys out for soccer and I am very thankful to get to spend time with them and watch them grow as athletes and human beings.&uot;

Romano’s full-time job is at Albert Lea Seed House, where his varied responsibilities include computer networking, inventory management and seed sales. He’s engaged to marry Morningstar Belote on May 22.

Swimming, basketball, tennis and soccer were Romano’s sports of choice growing up in various New England towns. His family moved west before his senior year, and he graduated from Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Davis, Calif., in 1991.

His soccer experience includes playing at Packer Collegiate Institute in New York and for a club team in Seattle, where Romano lived before moving to Albert Lea four years ago.

It was in a rather roundabout way that Romano became an ALHS coach.

The ninth-grade girls’ soccer job was offered to his sister two years ago but, according to Romano, she could not accept it because of time constraints and urged him to apply. Romano applied immediately and was offered the boys’ position.

Romano said he’s surprised to be the head coach because it was such a surprise previous coach Jim Haun, a minister, left the community to accept a job in the Twin Cities metro area. But he doesn’t feel out of place.

&uot;I have already become very comfortable in the role and feel that I make up for what I might lack in experience with enthusiasm and hard work,&uot; he said. &uot;I enjoy spending time on a soccer field and being part of the learning process. I also enjoy spending time with the players. There are not many things that I don’t like about coaching so far but I am sure that some challenging situations will present themselves.&uot;

What does Romano feel are his biggest challenges at this point?

&uot;I think that getting the players to work together and play up to their potential day in and day out for the next two or three months is going to be the biggest challenge,&uot; he said. &uot;We have the talent. It’s just a matter of how badly we want it and how hard we are willing to work to achieve our goals.&uot;

While Romano said his coaching philosophy is not yet completely developed, he has some definite goals that include, &uot;Build strong confident athletes, promote fair play and learning, help every athlete play to their potential and give every athlete a positive experience with the Albert Lea Tigers.&uot;

And Romano hopes to make the future as positive as possible for the Tigers.

&uot;I hope to turn the Albert Lea soccer program into a perennial powerhouse in the Big Nine,&uot; he said. &uot;I feel that we’ve got the talent and there are more and more resources going into our youth teams which serves as the training ground for high school athletes. I think we are a very competitive soccer team now and should be in the foreseeable future.&uot;

(Contact Jim Lutgens at sports or 379-3437.)