Paul Sponheimer motivated his players to succeed on and off the field.
The retired Seymour football coach won more than 200 games, four state titles and seven league titles during his 29-year career before coaching his last game in the 2008 Class SS finals.
He was honored on Thursday at the Aqua Turf in Southington as the Connecticut High School Coaches Association’s (CHSCA) Coach of the Year.
Sponheimer credited others for his successful career in Seymour.
“My staff, my community and the dedication of my players,” Sponheimer said. “Most of all, my wife Elizabeth’s ability to allow me to do something I love.”
Sponheimer influenced many players while coaching them.
“Next to my parents, he’s the biggest influence in my life,” said Seymour 1997 grad Tom Lennon, who now coaches the football team. “He called us his sons and treated us like sons and had a good relationship with us.”
Seymour linebacker coach Nick Teodosio also played for Sponheimer before graduating in 2004. Teodosio credits his former coach for being a positive influence on his life.
“He’s like a second father to me,” Teodosio said. “He was everything about Wildcat football. He just coached and cared so much for the kids and would do anything for us. The kids wanted to win because of that.”
Sponheimer’s approach was to treat his players well, which enabled him to get the most out of them.
“I respect them as people first and hopefully, they understand they are people first, and if they become good football players, great,” Sponheimer said. “I want them to be a productive part of society.”
Before he began his successful coaching career, Sponheimer played the game as well. He was a three-sport athlete at Seymour, playing football, basketball and baseball. He graduated in 1969.
During his playing days, he was an All-Housatonic league honoree and was on the All-Area team. Following graduation, he did a post graduate year at Milford Academy and earned All-New England before playing linebacker for four years at the University of Kentucky.
“I made football a priority, whether I was coaching or playing,” Sponheimer said. “I respect the game and it was a passion of mine.”
While coaching Seymour football is something he’ll always cherish, Sponheimer said he doesn’t regret retiring.
“I left a good football team and I left it with good people,” Sponheimer said. “It was time to spend more time with my wife Elizabeth.”