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People On The Move - Sal Guastella
04/30/2011 - By Paul Williams
A COACH FOR LACROSSE AND LIFE
This spring, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding Holmdel high school’s lacrosse team, the Hornets. They are ranked fourth in the Shore Conference, and expect to compete for the conference title - not bad considering the school’s lacrosse program didn’t exist until four years ago. The team’s rapid ascent and lofty expectations can be credited its head coach and founder, Sal Guastella. Guastella, who was an all-conference lacrosse player and conference champion at Montclair State, was itching to start up a lacrosse program when he discovered the untapped potential in Holmdel. “This was an area that I had marked in my mind as a great place to coach. There is a youth program, so there are young players here already. I thought it was an opportunity to teach in a great school district, too,” says Guastella, who has lived in Middletown for the past 20 years. He is currently a substitute teacher for Holmdel High School, and previously taught and coached at St. John Vianny in 2006-2007.
The 49-year-old Guastella’s path to teaching is a rather unique one. Unlike many of his friends who graduated with degrees in education, he received his Bachelors in Political Science in 1983, and then proceeded to work on Wall Street. “Back then you didn't need to have a finance degree. It sounds ridiculous right now, but I just put some resumes out, got an internship at Bankers Trust and next thing you know, I was hired. Then I worked as a fixed income trader for 20 years.” Guastella moved from New York City to Middletown when his wife, Mary Grace, became pregnant with the first of their two children. “My wife is from Middletown. I liked the area, and I decided to become a commuter.”
Mary Grace, who is the office manager at RBC Wealth Management in Red Bank, attended Montclair with Sal, but the two of them never met until after they graduated. “The funny thing is, there were only about 1,000 people living on campus, and she lived there, too. But then five or six years after college, we had similar friends and we started going out,” he said with a laugh.
Commuting to New York was a different experience for Guastella, who was born and raised on Long Island. Despite the fact that he earned a good living, he began to take the steps to change his career in the late 90s. “In my 30s, after I started coaching, and coaching my son at the Rumson-Fair Haven lacrosse program, I think I may have figured out what I really should be doing, and I wanted to teach, too.” Guastella enrolled in Monmouth University as a graduate student, where he took night classes twice a week, and obtained a Masters in teaching in 2000.
He believes the myriad of skills that he gained from his career on Wall Street and from raising two children have helped him become a better coach and teacher. Learning to manage two children helps him juggle various personalities, which is essential when you are dealing with 25 high school males on a regular basis. He also tries to pass on to students the professional skills he learned on Wall Street. “This is a temporary stop for these kids. The business experience of communicating well and being dedicated are important traits to learn.”
Guastella believes the one word that describes him best is ‘determined,’ which is evidenced by the amount of hours he puts into coaching and raising a family. “If you're doing it right, it takes virtually all of your time.” But seeing the pay off, on the field and at home, makes the time spent worth it to him. His son Peter is currently a lacrosse player at McDaniel College, and his daughter Samantha will be attending Quinnipiac on a basketball scholarship.
Five seniors from Holmdel are going on to play college lacrosse, and it makes Guastella proud to see students offered an opportunity that didn’t exist before he started the lacrosse program. While he loves seeing his students run onto the college fields, don’t expect him to take a shot at becoming a college coach. “With recruiting and what's demanded of a college coach, that’s not a lifestyle I want. A huge benefit of being, hopefully, a full-time teacher and coach is I get to live in my community. Twenty years on a train is enough. I missed a lot of good stuff in Monmouth County. I'm trying to make up for it now.”
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