It’s not going to be easy replacing a legend.
But Toby Gibbons is ready to take on the challenge.
After 21 seasons and three state titles, Jim Kelly retired as South Kingstown girls soccer coach in the offseason and Gibbons – who also serves as the head coach for the hockey and golf teams at SK – replaces him and is ready to make a mark of his own.
“I’m not sure I feel pressure but I understand there are high expectations,” said Gibbons, who was officially named coach at a school committee meeting in June. “I’m hoping in 20 years, if I’m able to coach as long as coach Kelly, maybe our records will be similar.”
Gibbons, a math teacher at South Kingstown High School, was one of three candidates from within the school system that applied for the job and while it was a hard choice, there was one thing that separated Gibbons from the other two candidates.
“His vision for the program,” SK athletic director Terry Lynch said.
While Gibbons hasn’t coached varsity soccer in Rhode Island, he did coach a few prep schools before moving to South Kingstown.
He also spent the last three seasons as the head coach for the Curtis Corner Middle School girls soccer teams, where the Cougars went 40-6-1.
Many of the players who had success at CCMS are currently on the SK roster.
“I coached the juniors, sophomores and incoming freshmen,” Gibbons said. “The only kids I haven’t coached were this year’s senior class, but I’ve had a lot of those girls in class. I’ve coached some of them and worked for some of them this summer and it’s been a blast getting to know them.”
Gibbons familiarity with the players – both the ones at CCMS and SKHS – also helped in the search.
“Obviously I’d rather have someone in the building and in the system,” Lynch said, “because they know the system and know the kids and it’s easier to communicate.”
Last season was a transition year for the Rebels coming off a strong 2010 season where they made the semifinals of the Division I tournament. Chemistry was an issue last season, but the Rebels managed to fight through the problems and finish 9-3-6 during the regular season before losing to rival North Kingstown 2-1 in double overtime at NK.
At that time, Gibbons coached one sport; now, after taking the golf job last spring, he’s a three-sport head coach and couldn’t be happier.
“I live in this town and I enjoy coaching and living in the same town,” Gibbons said. “… I very much like the tight-knit community and love to be a part of it.”