North Andover Scarlet Knights Boys Soccer '07

Tarbox clan synonymous with soccer success

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North Andover's Tarbox family, from left to right, Jana, Fred, and father Bill, are all local soccer coaches. Bill, a 35-year coaching stalwart in the area, has rubbed off on his two older children. Jana, 23, is an assistant at Presentation of Mary. Fred, 31, is the head girls coach at Haverhill High.  » Carl Russo, Staff Photographer

Thursday, October, 25 By Alan Siegel
Staff writer

Bill Tarbox's recent 58th birthday dinner involved more soccer talk than pizza consumption.

Among all the analysis and strategy, the group found time to take bites. But not many.

"My mom (Gail) and my wife (Ruth) have to put up with a lot," said Fred Tarbox, Bill's son. "All we talk about is soccer. It's constant."

So it goes for the first family of Merrimack Valley soccer coaches.

Bill, who last year retired from his longtime teaching post at Greater Lawrence Technical School, spent 18 seasons coaching the Reggie boys team before taking over at North Andover in 1991.

Fred (31) and Jana (23), Bill's oldest two children, are also area coaches. The former is in his first year at the helm of the Haverhill girls program. The latter is an assistant at Presentation of Mary.

"The most pleasant thing is that they like to work with kids," said Bill, whose youngest daughter Jennifer is a freshman at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. "That's the bottom line."

For as long as Fred can remember, soccer has been a big part of family life.

"Before I was even in school, I was at practices at the vocational school," said Fred, who's now a teacher in Haverhill. "God, I must've been four or five years old."

Before long, he was a teenager, playing for his dad at North Andover High. There were no free rides though. He took his lumps on the freshman team before earning varsity playing time as a sophomore. In 1994, as a senior, he made the Eagle-Tribune All-Star team.

"There really wasn't any nepotism," said Fred, whose club finished 16-3-1 that year but fell to Concord-Carlisle in the Division 2 North quarterfinals. "We had a very good team. It was a really fun group of kids."

Bill, a member of the Mass. Soccer Coaches Hall of Fame, counts the experience as one of the best in his 35-year coaching career.

"It was a nice situation," said Tarbox. "I believe in your lifetime you should have a chance to work with your kids." But, he added, "It wasn't easy for him, I'm sure, with his father coaching. ...You don't want to give favoritism to your own kid. But he learned the game, picked it up, worked hard, then in turn, had a chance to go to UMass Lowell (to play)."

Throughout his college career, Fred helped his father run his annual summer soccer camps at Phillips Academy, which he founded in 1976. As they got older, Jana and Jennifer began to lend a hand. It's a tradition that continues today. "We're all kind of involved in it," said Jana, who also played at North Andover High before moving on to Ithaca College, from where she graduated from in 2006. "There's a couple of generations there. That's something (special)."

Bill's coaching philosophy is simple. Take lots of kids | of all skill levels | and teach them soccer.

"He doesn't make cuts," Fred said of his dad, who won his 350th game Tuesday to hike his career record to 350-187-73. "All players develop differently. I think it's an amazing thing."

Fred and Jana don't shy away from asking for advice. While they celebrated Bill's birthday at their North Andover home earlier this month, Jana made a simple request.

"Give me a (practice) drill," she said to her dad. "Do you know anything good?"

Naturally, he complied.

"He really has a head full of drills," said Jana, who works as a teacher St. Ann's School in Methuen and moonlights as an assistant in Phillips Academy's audio-visual department. This fall, Bill even spent an afternoon at PMA working with the goalies.

"That was a good father-daughter exchange," he said. The Tarboxes are constantly trading stories, ideas, tryout methods and strategies to get their players recognition. The back and forth is a vital part of their respective careers. And, Bill said, "You keep a connection with your kids that way."

Jana, who was a rower on the Ithaca crew team, wasn't sure if she wanted to get into coaching beyond her dad's summer camps. After giving it a shot this fall, she has no regrets. "It's worked out great," she said. "I love it. The program is really small, but I've tried to make a difference." So it goes for members of the Tarbox clan, who seem content with the role soccer plays in their lives.

Really, Bill said, "What more can you ask for?"

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