HARWICH ─ It had been awhile since Ron Bonollo was on the sidelines of a field hockey game, but after seeing a posting for a new head coach at Monomoy High School, he found himself intrigued. When that same posting appeared again a few months later, he decided to go for it.
“I said, 'You know what? I'm looking for a challenge and a system that really cares about field hockey,'” Bonollo said. “I'm going to apply for that job.”
Bonollo did and was thrilled when he learned he'd been selected as Monomoy's new head coach, succeeding former head coach Cheryl Poore who stepped down at the end of last season. Poore, the success of the Monomoy program and how it elevated other programs on Cape Cod was a big motivator for Bonollo.
“A number of school systems just pay lip service to field hockey,” he said. “None here on the Cape, and that has to do with longtime coach Cheryl Poore. I competed against her a few times. She really uplifted the sport here on the Cape. Schools had to really take it seriously if they were going to compete with her.”
Bonollo comes to Monomoy via a circuitous route that saw him traverse from coaching baseball and field hockey to working in child welfare for nearly three decades.
“I've been involved with child welfare for the last 27 years,” Bonollo said, adding that he's been a lead investigator and later a trainer. “Prior to moving to Florida back in 1990 I was the field hockey coach at Bellingham High School.”
He initially got into field hockey when a friend of his, an athletic director at Franklin High, asked Bonollo to take the varsity coaching job after the staff resigned suddenly at the start of the season.
“He called and said 'We just had the entire field hockey staff resign and I can't find a coach. We need you to take the varsity field hockey job,'” Bonollo said. “I said, 'No way!' I was a referee in field hockey at the time, had been for about eight or nine years. I knew the game from the aspect of negativity.”
Bonollo was told that if the school couldn't find a coach within the next 48 hours, it would be forced to scrap the program.
“I said I'd take it for one year. The bottom line was that I got hooked on the girls and their enthusiasm and dedication, and just the commitment they made to the sport that one year led to five,” Bonollo said. “One of those years we ended up playing Harwich High School in the state semi's. Cheryl Poore's team beat us in penalty strokes.”
From there Bonollo left Franklin for college coaching at venues such as the University of Tampa, Dean College, and Framingham State, resurfacing in the field hockey realm at Bellingham as the health coordinator and men's basketball coach. Two years into his Bellingham job, the field hockey coach resigned. Bonollo decided to toss his hat into the ring.
“They had never made the state tournament in 15 years,” he said. “We ended up coming in second in the league, and winning the championship. That was 1985. The following two years we were also successful in the tournament. In 1988 they moved us up to Div. 1. We ran the table in '88, won six straight games and the title. That's still my top thrill as a coach ever.”
Bonollo said he's ready to get back into field hockey in a place that cares deeply for the sport.
“Field hockey always pops into my mind when I think of great experiences,” he said. “Basically it's because of the level of enthusiasm and commitment of the female athletes I was fortunate enough to coach. Let's face it, you need good athletes to win and I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time.”
Bonollo said he's stunned at the level of talent his new Monomoy squad includes. He has eighth graders on the team that will serve as varsity starters, something he said is a testament to the quality of the programs at Monomoy Middle and High Schools, as well as the area clinics.
“That speaks to the training they've had and the programs that are in place that Coach Poore and Coach (Kathy) Andrews (at Monomoy Middle School) have put in place and have been working for a number of years. Without question Cheryl Poore established a level of consistency over the years. The program is known for its excellence.”
Bonollo said he considers it his job to keep the program at that level moving forward.
“I think my charge is to keep it at the same level it's at,” he said. “I don't know how I'd bring it to another level. You have the support of the administration here, you've got community support, you have a strong booster club, plus I'm observing the camps and clinics. You don't see that in most areas in field hockey. Certainly not where I came from in Bellingham and Franklin.”
He noted that Andrews has had two undefeated teams at the middle school level, which means that seasoned athletes ultimately arrive at Monomoy ready for competition.
“It's just amazing the level of commitment in this area,” Bonollo said.
Though pre-season practices have begun, Bonollo said he's still determining his team's goals in terms of season hopes and expectations.
“The goal is always to make the state tournament,” he said. “I don't think I've set a goal as far as win-loss record. My feeling is every day we're out there we want to get better. I want to be better tomorrow than we are today, and better next week than we are this week. I want to see total commitment from the team, and I think I've seen that in conditioning.”
Bonollo said the voluntary summer training saw a nearly 90 to 95 percent turnout among players.
“We had almost 40 girls, and 34 of them are doing Monday-Wednesday-Friday conditioning,” he said. “I think if we keep that up, that level of commitment, I think we're going to be a successful program.”
But Bonollo also wants to make sure his players and their parents are enjoying the season.
“The onus is on me to provide a situation where it's highly competitive, demanding, but yet fun,” he said. “I want it to be a fun experience not only for the players, but also the parents. If it's not fun then none of us should be involved in it.”
Mostly Bonollo is excited to get back on the sidelines where he hopes to help his Sharks strive for greatness.
“I'm all in as far as making a total commitment to maintaining the level of excellence that Monomoy field hockey is known for,” he said.
Monomoy's first game of the season is slated for Thursday, Sept. 7 at Falmouth with a 4:30 p.m. start. The team's first home game is scheduled for Sept. 13 at 4 p.m. against Dennis-Yarmouth.