Coach And Player Marriage Perfect Match For Kean
UNION, N.J. (AP) _ Kean College women’s soccer coach Fred Napoli is married to his job, not to mention the starting halfback.
``Fred is like any other coach,″ said his wife, Linda Schuler-Napoli. ``If he thinks I am goofing off,″ she said, ``he will let me know it.″
But the couple’s Cougars have not been goofing off this season. Kean is 13-1-1, outscoring opponents 67-8. The team scored a 1-0 triumph over Elizabethtown College last week before suffering its first loss on Wednesday, 4-2 to The College of New Jersey.
Napoli’s tough-love coaching style and his wife’s strong play on defense along with a goal and three assists have been major reasons for Kean’s success.
``She has good skills and sees the field real well,″ Napoli said. ``I also think some of her success comes from her maturity as a person.″
After struggling through the 1991 season because of the death of her father, Schuler-Napoli decided to forego her last year of soccer eligibility and concentrate on classes in her senior year. At that time, she moved back to Toms River, N.J. to be with her mother and began to date Napoli, who was an assistant coach for the men’s team.
Only a year later, she received her diploma from Kean and a wedding ring from the coach. They bought a new house in Port Monmouth, and soon after, had a baby girl. Now 18 months old, Ashley Lynn’s favorite pastime is shouting ``goal, goal″ every time her mom kicks the ball.
In 1994, Schuler-Napoli stayed in shape by coaching girl’s soccer. That year she told Napoli, who had since taken the women’s soccer head coaching job, that she was thinking of going back to Kean for graduate classes and might want to return to the team. He thought she was joking, and they dropped the subject.
The next year, she once again told the coach she was interested in taking classes and playing for him. This time, he took her seriously, but she was not yet in playing form.
But 1996 _ with Schuler-Napoli in top shape, her confidence level back, and enrolled in graduate school courses _ proved different.
``Two days before practice started, she tells me she wants to play again,″ Napoli said. ``First I am like, `What are we going to do as far as the baby is concerned?′ ″
That situation was quickly resolved with a baby sitter. Then, Napoli, 32, worried about how the other players would react to Linda being on the team.
``As far as I know, I don’t think it bothers anyone on the team,″ Schuler-Napoli said. ``There is no favoritism. I didn’t publicize the fact that Fred is my husband.″
There is still the matter of finding time to lead a normal family life.
Between watching Ashley when the baby sitter is not there, practice, games, and taking classes, Schuler-Napoli, 25, has had little time for relaxation this season. When the season ends she hopes to find some time to rest and get ``back some of my sanity.″
But that comes second to an NCAA championship, she said. ``I am not going to go out there and goof off. This is my last year.″
Napoli said he had coached his brother before, but ``coaching a wife has been completely different.″
``I try to be reserved with everybody. But she knows when she made a mistake,″ he said. ``She is part of the reason we are successful. She is a good player and she understands where I am coming from.″