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Dale Abeling Dale Abeling
Inducted: 2010 - Graduated:


Dale Abeling

Coach & Educator

Dale Abeling’s imprint on Nanuet High School can be measured in many ways. He spent 26 years (1970-1996) as a physical education teacher in the Nanuet Public Schools. He coached the football team to the first winning season (5-3) in school history, in 1972. He coached the girls’ basketball team when Janice Olszewski was rewriting the Rockland record books in 1978 and ’79, and enjoyed a four-year run as girls’ volleyball coach.

Overriding all of those noteworthy pursuits, however, is his unbridled passion for lacrosse. Dale launched Nanuet’s lacrosse program in 1971 (as a club team the first year) and spearheaded it for 14 years, 1971-80 and 1985-88. During that time he posted a sparkling record of 130 victories and only 32 losses. Overall, in a 40-year career (1965-2005) spanning five high schools and three colleges, Dale rang up 283 wins compared with only 115 losses.

Dale made Nanuet an immediate winner. His 1972 squad – the first full-fledged varsity team in school history – captured the Hudson Valley Lacrosse League championship with a 9-1 league mark and 13-1 overall record, defeating perennial power Nyack and large schools Clarkstown North and South and Spring Valley. He also piloted the team to a 15-game winning streak over the 1972 and ’73 seasons and a composite record of 25-7.

Six of the 10 starters on the ’72 club made All-League and All-County – Ken Gamache, Ed Mooney, Keith Hackett, Tony Chirico, Bob Schmidt and Kevin Johns – and nine team members went on to play at NCAA Div. I or Div. III programs, “due to his leadership and recruiting assistance,” says Mooney.  Dale’s most prized pupil was Billy Kurisko, the three-time All-Section midfielder (1985-87) who set Rockland County records for points in a game (11) and season (108).

Dale’s influence in lacrosse reverberates far beyond his 14-year tenure as Nanuet’s head coach. He played for four years at SUNY Cortland and nine more years of club lacrosse on Long Island. Before coming to Nanuet, he had successful two-year stints as head coach at Peekskill Military Academy (1965-67, 29-4) and Eastern Military Academy on Long Island (1967-69, 28-3). On the high school level, he also directed the Clarkstown South program during 1992-94 (20-14), assisted Coach Ralph Rogo at Nanuet in 1995-97, revived the Don Bosco Prep program from 2000-2003 (16-16), and served as defense coordinator at Ridgewood, N.J., which won 50 of 54 games during his time there. Recognizing the value of developing skills during the formative years, Dale also instituted a pee wee program at Nanuet that became a feeder system for the high school.

Rogo is one of the many beneficiaries of Dale’s mastery in communicating his love and knowledge of the game. “He knows so much and taught me so much about lacrosse,” says Ralph, who was Dale’s assistant in 1985-88 before reversing roles and having Dale as his assistant in 1995-97. “We had a great working relationship. When he was my assistant, we were like co-coaches.” The ’97 team went undefeated in the county, led by stars Terry Hutmacher and Brian Dowd.

Rick Sorkow is another grateful recipient of Dale’s willingness to share his expertise accrued from decades of involvement with the sport. Sorkow had been a veteran lacrosse referee who got into coaching when Dale asked him to take the reins of the freshmen team at Don Bosco when Dale took over the varsity post there in 2000. Sorkow later came to Nanuet for a four-year coaching stint (2006-2009), the last two as varsity coach.

“He was always my mentor,” says Sorkow, who helped resurrect the Nanuet youth lacrosse program a decade ago. “When I reffed, I respected the way his teams performed on the field. His teams were always well prepared, well conditioned, and disciplined. When I was coaching, I would consult with him on a regular basis during the season to get his feedback. I valued his input tremendously. Even up until last year, he would come to almost every home game and watch from the far side of the field. Nanuet was near and dear to his heart, and the whole lacrosse program was near and dear to his heart.”

On the college level, Dale founded a lacrosse program at Rockland Community College in 1989 and led the Fighting Hawks to a 29-12 mark over three years. He moved on to helm Manhattanville College and Dominican College for two years each, the latter stewardship ending in 2005. He also originated and ran the Shoot the Rock Summer Lacrosse League in Rockland for the first 13 of its 17 seasons.

Newcomers to Nanuet may not know that Dale skippered the varsity football team from 1970 to 1975, bridging the eras from Mike Achille and Chuck Holland to Rich Conklin. With fellow Hall of Famer Howie Roth at quarterback, the ’72 Golden Knights – playing David to Rockland County’s Goliaths – secured the first winning season in the program’s 12-year varsity history to that point, and defeated Nyack and Suffern for the first time.

Current Coach Rich Conklin broke in as freshman coach under Dale in 1971. “I was used to [playing for] Chuck Holland and Mike Achille,” says Conklin, a 1967 Nanuet graduate who played for Nanuet in 1965 and ’66 and has been head coach since 1976. “Dale gave me free rein of the freshman team, which I appreciated after a four-year college football career [at Southern Connecticut]. He expected his assistants to toe the rope but also to keep him informed of their opinions. He gave us an open forum. I learned a lot under his system. He helped me understand the pros and cons of competing for a small school against much larger schools. Dale always had a great allegiance to his staff, and that motivated his staff to rally under tough times.”

 Dale recognized the inequity of the Rockland PSAL alignment, which lumped small schools like Nanuet and Pearl River in with larger schools like Haverstraw/North Rockland, the Clarkstowns, Suffern and Spring Valley. He was one of the first to advocate for enrollment-based competition and helped precipitate Nanuet’s move to a Westchester-based small-school league.

 "We played our first Westchester game against Ardsley, an out-of-conference game in 1975,” remembers Jerome Bonomolo, who was a JV football coach under Dale. “Dale helped get the ball rolling on our move to Westchester. He was influential in getting us to go into Section 1.”

 Dale was raised in Ilion, N.Y., and graduated from Ilion Central High School in 1957. He earned an undergraduate degree in physical education from SUNY Cortland, a master’s in educational administration from Temple, and a New York State Directorship in Health, Physical Education and Recreation from NYU. He began his teaching career in 1961 at Temple, where he served as director of intramural sports, and taught junior high phys ed in Patchogue, Long Island, from 1962 to ’65. He served as director of phys ed and athletics at both Peekskill Military Academy and Eastern Military Academy before coming to Nanuet.

 Dale, who is 71, suffered a stroke while attending a Nanuet home lacrosse game in May 2009. Although the mobility on his right side is severely restricted, as is his ability to communicate orally, physical therapy has enabled him to regain some walking skills and he works with a trainer three to four times a week, says his wife, Pam.

 In May 2010 a lacrosse scholarship was established in Dale’s name. One male and one female graduating senior, each of whom excelled in lacrosse at Nanuet and demonstrated academic success and community service, were granted $2,000 scholarships, the first of what is hoped to be an annual award in Dale’s honor.

Dale and Pam have been married 45 years and reside in New City. They have three grown children: Christie, 40; Lisa, 38; and Luke, 34. Christie lives in North Carolina and has two sons, Adian, 7, and Koa, 2. Lisa also lives in North Carolina and has one son, Phineas, 18 months. Luke lives in Congers with wife Marybeth and has a daughter, Kasey, who turned 7 on Nov. 19.