STONINGTON — After 14 years guiding the Stonington High boys soccer team to unprecedented success, Paul deCastro is resigning as coach.
The 47-year-old deCastro informed the team — which includes 11 seniors, most of whom he's coached since youth soccer — of his decision on Wednesday.
"One of the main reasons is I've been coaching with this crew of kids for a long time, and it was just a good time to leave. That was part of it," deCastro said. "It was a tough season. There was a little more stress at the end than I thought. We had a championship team and I was worried that something might go wrong."
But hardly anything went wrong for the Bears this season. After losing the opening game of the year to Ledyard, the Bears reeled off 21 straight wins, capped by a 3-1 victory over Ellington in the Class M state title game.
Stonington beat Ledyard twice along the way, including a 3-1 victory in the ECC Division I championship game.
It was Stonington's second Class M title in three seasons. The Bears defeated Ellington, 1-0, in the 2019 title game. The state tournament was not played in 2020 due to the pandemic.
During his time with the Bears, deCastro posted a record of 164-86-12, including a mark of 89-6-3 over the past five seasons with two ECC tournament championships.
This seniors on this season's roster included his son, Billy deCastro. Coach deCastro first started coaching this group of players more than a decade ago.
"I've probably been working with these kids 11-12 years. When you've been with someone that long, you have a lot of trust and faith with each other," deCastro said. "We made a big commitment to each other. I got them at an early stage. I got lucky. We had some great kids and some great parents, and we've been on a pretty good run."
DeCastro plans to spend more time with his wife, Amy, and his daughter, Bela, a freshman on the Stonington girls soccer team this season.
"[Bella] had a ton of games this season, and I wasn't able to watch her play in the state tournament," deCastro said. "My wife has been super supportive. Now, there are things we are going to be able to do on weekends, and do some things as a family.
"A lot of these kids are going to be playing in college. I want the freedom to watch them play. It's not fair to not give the team my full commitment."
Winning the two state titles is obviously a highlight for deCastro.
"Having my son involved and seeing him score a goal in the state final is something I will never forget," said deCastro, who was also a standout player at Stonington, Class of 1992, and played Division I soccer at the University of Vermont.
DeCastro thanked many for their help during his time as coach.
"I'm super appreciative of [athletic director] Bryan Morrone and his support. The administration has been a big support of boys soccer," deCastro said. "In the state tournament, they were always supporting us. We have great fans and super-great parents that were supportive of my decisions.
"I haven't had a parent meeting in 10 years. The parents were parents and they let me coach. It's been a great 14 years."
Morrone praised deCastro in an email Wednesday announcing his resignation.
From the first day we started working together, I knew he was the right person for the job. Coach deCastro's dedication to the team, hardworking nature and knowledge of the game of soccer shown through in how the team performed on and off the field," Morrone said. "His passion for Stonington and the game of soccer permeated through our other SHS teams and our community soccer programming. Thus creating a longevity and positive culture beyond his time on our sidelines."
What advice would deCastro give someone who follows in his large footsteps?
"Sometimes coaches think it's about the X's and the O's and that is important. But of a lot of it is managing personalities," said deCastro, who is a physical education and health teacher in the Exeter-West Greenwich school district. "I don't treat all the kids the same because they are all different. Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it takes time. You have to show them you are invested and that you care."