SAUGERTIES, NY — The Saugerties Central School District recently honored Tony Elia for 50 years of coaching football at various levels in the district.
Elia, currently a modified football coach at Saugerties, was celebrated at a celebration that brought together family, colleagues and friends to mark his achievement. The district presented him with a jacket to commemorate the event. The jacket is inscribed with the words: “Coach Elia. 50 years of training.
Elia established the first football program at Saugerties in 1972. For the next 30 years he coached college football before coaching modified football for another 20 years. Elia retired from the district in 2009 after teaching social studies for 38 years.
The current modified football coach says a chance encounter in 1972 with former Saugerties Board of Education administrator Pete Kramer led to his decision to become a teacher and coach in the district.
At the time, Elia was a young, experienced football player working toward his Masters in Education at SUNY New Paltz.
He said he was trying to decide between playing football or pursuing a career as an educator. After
meeting with Kramer, he decided to teach social studies at Saugerties and start the football program.
Elia has been instrumental in developing various football programs in the region. He was co-founder and president of the Mid-Hudson Youth and Adult soccer leagues, as well as the Saugerties Youth and Adult Soccer leagues.
Many former Elia players went on to play football in university and football clubs. Several of its players have also become coaches.
Elia doesn’t plan to retire from training for some time.
“The thrill of this game never gets old,” he said. “I will do it for as long as I can.”