York-Adams League girls' volleyball coach steps down, but leaves behind a trail of titles
- Jason Leppo has stepped down as the Delone Catholic High School girls' volleyball coach.
- In just more than a decade, Leppo's teams won a state title and five District 3 Class 2-A titles.
- Leppo's teams also took four York-Adams League playoff championships.
When most coaches make the decision to step away from their duties, they usually call it a retirement of sorts.
Most coaches, however, generally don’t step away when they're in their mid-30s and at the top of their field.
So, when Delone Catholic girls’ volleyball head coach Jason Leppo announced that he was stepping down from a position that he has held for more than a decade, there was no mention of retirement.
“This may be an ending, but it’s not a goodbye,” Leppo wrote on his Facebook page Monday afternoon. “It’s a see you later.”
While it wasn’t the first time that Leppo flirted with the decision to step down, he said the timing of it just feels right this time.
The Spring Grove High School graduate started a new job in January that would have affected the way he ran the program. To continue on would have required a bit more sacrifice, not only from himself, but from his players and assistant coaches as well.
Stepping away from something that has, at times, consumed his life, wasn’t an easy decision, but ultimately it was what Leppo decided was the right one.
Leppo led the Squirettes to the 2013 PIAA Class 2-A state title, five District 3 2-A championships, four York-Adams League playoff titles and nine Y-A Division III titles.
He also collected his 200th career coaching victory this past season at the school in McSherrystown, Adams County.
Following is a Q&A with Leppo about his decision:
Q: What led up to this decision?
Leppo: “So the biggest change for me was that I started a new job in January.
"So that was really when I started to look at the demands of that, as well as my time and schedule. It was going to be asking a lot, not just of myself, but of the kids and the other coaches.
"We’ve always practiced right after school and we’d have to practice a lot later in the evening, and that’s a lot for some of those kids, especially if they don’t live that close to Delone. We pull from a wider area in some respects and for some of those kids, they wouldn’t be able to even go home until practice is over, which could be 8 or 8:30 or whenever.
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"And then there’s the thing about the coaches and their families. (Assistant coach) Nate (Staub), who has been one of my best friends for the last 25-plus years, the fact that he would have to miss spending time with his daughter in the evenings to be at practice … I just couldn’t do that.”
Q: When did the girls in the program find out about your decision?
Leppo: “(Monday). It was nice to be able to talk to the girls and be able to tell them first versus kind of putting it out there and letting them know about it another way.
"And that’s a huge credit to Tim Bonitz, our AD, as well as the whole school and their support and understanding and helping me to try to do this in the most appropriate way possible. So we’ll be forever grateful to him and the school for that.”
Q: Will you still be involved as a coach at the Ballyhoo with club volleyball?
Leppo: “I’ll still be doing Ballyhoo for now.
"But even with that, I’ll definitely want to make some changes with that, too, and find a better balance.
"And that’s one of the things that, when I was reflecting on it, that if you’re not careful, that coaching could consume you in a negative way. So that’s one of the things.
"I also wanted to spend more time doing things outside of volleyball for a while, but I definitely still want to be attached to it and connected to it to some degree, because it has been such a huge part of my world for a long time.”
Q: When did you start thinking about this, and were there a lot of back and forths with yourself before you made up your mind?
Leppo: “Once I settled in, there wasn’t a lot of back and forths.
"I really started thinking about it … and this was not a decision that I made on a whim ... I thought about it for a couple of months now, and I kind of came to peace with it.
"I told Nate and some of the others back in February or early, early March, and Staub told me yesterday when we were meeting with the girls that he kept thinking I was going to change my mind. But no, and that was kind of the biggest sign for me that I knew that now was the right time, because I wasn’t having as much of that back and forths with it and was kind of at peace with it.”
Q: How tough was this decision to make and was this the first time you struggled with something like this?
Leppo: “A lot of thought went into it.
"It wasn’t like I woke up one day and thought I was going to stay at Delone and then I woke up the next day and thought that I was going to be stepping down. But it was a pretty easy conclusion to come to over the course of time.
"There is just so much mental, physical and emotional energy, especially at the end of a season, that you kind of have to take a step back and ask yourself, ‘can I do this again?’ And I would tell people that I’m closer to finishing this up at Delone than at the beginning and they would say that I’m nuts, but the reality of this is that there’s a lot of time that goes into something like this and a lot of coaches at big-time programs with big expectations probably think about this a lot and kind of do a self-evaluation on a year-to-year basis, more so than people on the outside would ever realize.”
Q: How did you get your start in coaching initially?
Leppo: “What got me into coaching initially … oh, boy (laughs). I knew from a really early age that I wanted to be a coach. I don’t even necessarily know why. I think I was just kind of drawn to the mentality side of sports.”
Q: So, was it like a day in first grade when the teacher asked the kids what they wanted to be and one would say an astronaut and another would say a doctor and you would say you wanted to be a girls’ volleyball coach?
Leppo: “Well, no, no, no (laughs).
"I can remember back when I was in high school that I really liked coaching. I would like working at camps with younger kids and different things like that.
"I remember my senior year of high school that my volleyball coach let me coach our JV team in the summer league and I remember that I really liked it.
"And if you asked me, and still to this day, basketball is my favorite sport, but I was just better at volleyball. My high school coaches in volleyball are still people that I’m good with. And when I got to college they were like, ‘hey, I know a friend that’s in your area and you should help coach’.
"So I would have told you that I would be coaching boys and coaching basketball. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would be coaching girls’ volleyball.”
Q: After 10 long, yet very successful years at Delone, what stands out the most to you when you look back at it all?
Leppo: “Obviously the state championship is one that is kind of hard to forget.
"But there are just so many little moments, so may little things. Probably some of the losses, I could tell you more about them than most of the wins.
"But I know a good one. It was Sarah Senft's, Katie Laughman's and Amber Johnson’s senior year (2015). We didn’t drop a single set to a team in York County that entire year. Like we won 3-0 in every league match through the county playoffs and in all the nonleague matches. And I just went back the other day to check on it, because even I didn’t believe it, but we didn’t lose a single set to any YAIAA team at any point. And I was like, ‘wow, that’ll probably never happen again.’ You know because of how good our league is from top to bottom. And it’s not just Division III … when you get into counties, you’re playing the big schools, and that was one heck of an accomplishment.
"And I remember the first district championship (in 2012) when we were down 0-2 and came back and beat Berks Catholic. That was just an awesome, awesome memory.”
— Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.