Kelowna is known as a retirement destination.
So when Larry Moro takes his Centennial Centaurs senior girls soccer team there June 1 to 3 for the provincial championships, he may just stay.
This is the last kick at the grass for the longtime coach, teacher and counsellor whose charges have qualified for 19 provincials in his 22-year tenure at Centennial (he also taught and coached previously at Montgomery and Banting junior secondary schools). His teams won three times, finished second once and third three more times.
“It’s sinking in,” said Moro Thursday of his impending retirement after the Centaurs defeated Burnaby Central 3-0 to win the Fraser North district championship, capping a perfect 19-0 season.
A fourth provincial banner would be icing on the cake.
Make no mistake, Moro said, he loves to compete. But more importantly he cherishes the relationships he’s been able to forge over the years as he’s gently guided young athletes to the next stage of their competitive and educational careers.
“I got to work with some of the finest young people,” he said. “Not just terrific athletes, but quality people, who enriched my life.”
Centennial has always benefited from being able to draw from a pool of players who already compete at a high level in the BC Premier League. Moro said he learned early on in his coaching career that his main role would be to stay out of the way of their technical development.
Rather, he directed his whistle towards bringing his players together.
“I realized with our minimum amount of practice, I was not going to significantly change their skill,” Moro said. “My job was to get them to play as a cohesive unit.”
The strategy yielded immediate results. Moro won a provincial championship his first year on the touchline, a template for success that’s been passed on from team to team.
“Everything followed after that because it worked,” Moro said. “The culture was built very quickly and it passed on year to year by the older players. The younger players saw how they were treated equally and when they were seniors they treated the young ones the same.”
It’s an environment players say brings out their best.
“The amount of effort that Larry puts into the team just really makes us want to win,” said Kate Smith.
“He’s just always there for us, and so caring and supportive,” said Dani Coss. “He’s definitely someone that we just want to do our best for.”
Moro’s associate coach, Kevin Comeau, said his colleague’s fatherly touch frees him to focus on the players’ technical and tactical development.
“It really makes my job easier,” he said. “That’s why I think we’re a really good team.”
Moro said Centennial’s perfect run through the season so far belies some of the adversity the team has faced along the way, including injuries to several key players. He said Central’s dogged determination in the district final was probably the Centaurs’ toughest test, a building block for the challenges to come at provincials when the matches come fast and furious in the three-day tournament and stifling heat could be a factor.
“We haven’t really been tested a lot,” Moro said. “[Today] was a battle all the way through.”
But even if Centennial returns from the Okanagan without a banner, Moro knows it will be a winning experience.
“I think it’s just the excitement of going up and team-building and bonding,” he said of the coming road trip. “It’s very cool to share the experience with them.”