George Guido: Freeport grad Clyde Conti remains active in coaching after 46 seasons
Tuesday, April 16, 2019 | 4:51 PM
Clyde Conti, a stellar athlete in football and track at Freeport in the late 1960s, recently completed his 46th season of coaching football when he stepped down from his role as an assistant coach/academic advisor for Slippery Rock.
But he’s not ready to hang up his whistle yet. Conti is coaching the seventh- and eighth-grade track team at Slippery Rock Area Middle School.
During his 32 seasons as a head coach, the Clarion graduate amassed 188 victories at Clarion-Limestone, Slippery Rock Area and Butler.
Conti was named coach of the year seven times and won four district titles at Clarion-Limestone and Slippery Rock.
He is a member of the Alle-Kiski, Armstrong County and Pennsylvania Football Coaches Association halls of fame, and the 1969 Freeport graduate is a resident of Slippery Rock with his wife of 43 years, Ursula.
What got you interested in coaching, and what best explains your longevity?
Coach Bob King, coach Don Earley and coach Tom Defilippi were the men who impacted me in a positive way. My dad was a wonderful role model. My sister, Georgie Blackburn, has always given me unconditional support. She is the most positive human being that I know.
Ursula has been the source of what is truly good in my life. I’ve coached football for 46 years, track 27 years and basketball 15 years. I’ve been with her for 86 of those 88 seasons. She is the real coach in our family.
You played at Freeport under hall of famers King and Earley, both deceased, yet you’ve maintained contact with their families. What is it about the Freeport football legacy (555 wins) that an outsider might not understand?
I loved Coach King and Coach Earley. Mike reminds me so much of Coach King. He is his father’s son. Several years ago, former Freeport football players gathered to honor Coach Earley on his birthday. He was to Freeport football what Sonny Westerman was to Legion baseball in Freeport. These men truly cared about you. I was one of Don Earley’s boys … a Yellowjacket.
How daunting was it to start your head coaching career at Clarion-Limestone, a place that hadn’t done well in the years before you arrived, at age 23?
Actually I just turned 22 when Clarion-Limestone hired me to teach and coach. It was only their third year of varsity football. I had one varsity assistant in 1973, Jim Williamson, who later coached with me in 2002 at Slippery Rock. My junior high coach was one of my best friends from high school, John Lowers, who was still attending Clarion State College. We went 3-5-1 my first year, then beat East Brady, 24-0, for the Little 12 Championship in 1974. Those guys, now in their 60s, were wonderful to coach.
Was there a year or era that stands out most during your coaching career?
Coaching my sons, Chad and Chase, was special. Each of them earned academic scholarships from the PSFCA to Robert Morris. Chad is a member of the distinguished Society of Actuaries, and Chase is a financial consultant. They understood the importance of a solid education. My 2003 team at Slippery Rock that lost to Aliquippa and Darrelle Revis in the PIAA western final was my best team. The 2008 team at Slippery Rock, which lost 21-14 in overtime to eventual state champion Wilmington, was the best in maximizing their ability.
Starting this year, Clarion Area, Clarion-Limestone and North Clarion high schools will combine forces into one co-op football team. Is the future of small-town high school football bleak?
I watched the game between C-L and Keystone last fall. The two head coaches and three assistants played for me at C-L. When I was at C-L, people coached for one another. None of us had what I call “tunnel vision.” It was all about those in the arena: the athletes. It was never about building a resume. Several of our athletes played three sports. We need to get back to parents and athletes concentrating on the season in session. Too much pressure is put on kids today. More is not always better.