About two years ago, T.J. Mead mapped out a plan to exit as the Champlain Valley Union High School boys soccer coach after the 2013 season.
Mead didn’t disclose that decision to family or friends — or even his wife, he says — in what turned out to be his final campaign.
Mead, the former all-state midfielder who helped CVU back to glory in 1999 when the school was nicknamed the Crusaders, stepped away from his eight-year coaching gig at his alma mater. Mead, 31, made the announcement at the team’s banquet this past weekend.
Taking over for Dan Shepardson in 2006, Mead compiled a record of 115 wins, 15 losses and six ties. Mead’s teams won four Division I titles — 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2012 — and reached two other title games, including this year’s 2-1 loss to Colchester.
“My players know I’m a planner and when I commit to something, I stick to it,” Mead said. “Even though we lost our last game, it still feels like the right time.”
In Mead’s tenure, the Redhawks — the school’s nickname since 2005 — amassed at least 14 wins in six seasons and produced only one campaign of less than 10 victories (8-6-2 record in 2008).
“They are all special for different reasons,” said Mead of the four titles. “Whatever the end result, there was always a different cast of characters. Luckily, eight seasons is not so long so I can remember vividly every aspect of each one.”
A teacher at CVU, Mead said he wants to spend more time with his family and coach his son, who will start kindergarten next year. Mead also has a younger daughter.
Those heavy expectations to win a title annually at “Soccer Central” was not part of the decision to step down, Mead said, calling it, “the dream job for high school soccer in Vermont.
“People who are around our program know it’s a yearlong job, not just those three months during the season,” Mead said. “I was always motivated to uphold the tradition and I loved that intensity and I think the next coach will have to be prepared for that intensity and I’m sure whoever it is, they will be great.”
Of keeping the decision to himself, Mead said, “I didn’t want to burden everyone else. I just wanted to focus on the season, the team and specifically the seniors.”
Mead, however, did leave the door open for a return to coaching.
“I’m not leaving CVU. I love my job as a teacher and I can definitely see myself coaching again,” Mead said. “I like competing and I don’t think that’s ever going to go away and I think coaching is going to be an outlet for that.”