Tom Shoebridge is a Lyndhurst Lifer. As a teacher, head track coach and football assistant, his impact on generations of Golden Bears is immeasurable.
“I’m still a Lyndhurst kid, I still live here, and I love Lyndhurst,” Shoebridge said firmly.
Shoebridge, who was named league Coach of the Year in four different decades (’80s, ’90s, ’00s and ’10s), officially retired last week as head coach of the Lyndhurst boys track program while he continues to recover from knee replacement surgery. He retired as a teacher after the 2012 school year.
He promises he’s not going away completely. He’s still attending Lyndhurst track practices regularly, but also following his godson’s college baseball career, and spending more time down the Shore with his wife.
“I know the program is in good shape,” said Shoebridge, 65. “I don’t want to go through the motions, when I taught or coached, I was always a 100 percent guy. I’m all in. I just felt like this is the right time, but I still want to coach. They will still see me.”
It doesn’t take long to find someone with a Shoebridge story that demonstrates what made him resonate in the North Jersey track community
“He’s the ultimate,” said Kim Hykey, who has taken over the Lyndhurst boys program with Shoebridge’s departure. “He’s a legend here.”
“Tom is unique,” said current Holy Angels coach Howie Schuman, one of Shoebridge’s contemporaries. “The kids loved him. He was tough as anything. The kids just followed in his footsteps and followed his example.”
Shoebridge won 275 dual meets in a career that spans almost 40 years (he was an assistant in 1977 before taking head job in 1978), Division C county titles four of the last nine years, sectional titles in 2011 and 2014. He’s was inducted into the New Jersey State Coaches Hall of Fame in 2011.
But, he defers much of the credit to his Lyndhurst roots. He talks about how when he got started, he watched other coaches back in the then BCSL American and modeled what they did. He also said he took bits from three mentors at Lyndhurst: Jimmy Corino, Arnie Perrone and Jim Vuono.
“I learned how to coach and run a program from watching those three guys build their programs,” said Shoebridge. “I owe them all the credit for where our program has gone.”
People don’t always associate the word “toughness” with a track athlete, but whenever there is a Shoebridge-coached Lyndhurst runner on the track, or out in the field, toughness is what you got.
“His kids would always give everything they had,” said Hasbrouck Heights coach Rob Brady. “You could see it in like the 400 or 800, his kids would always reach inside a little more to put themselves out there for him and their program. The kids were proud of Lyndhurst and proud to have him as their coach.”
Brady has known Shoebridge for more than 20 years and has competed against his teams countless times. He describes their relationship as going from fierce competitors to good friends. Brady said at the start of every track season, coaches expect a few things, questionable weather, muscle pulls and Shoebridge encouraging his team loudly.
“He will go to the end of the world for his athletes,” said Darren Ressler, a former coach at Saddle Brook, who worked for a year at Lyndhurst. “It shows with the kind of success he’s had at Lyndhurst. I don’t think he was ever out-coached in anything he’s done. He was always one step ahead if not equal.”
“When the kids need a wake-up call or a different type of motivation, he would take them out there and tell them the story,” said Hykey. “He lets them know that there is so much more we could be doing and people’s lives have been cut short and how lucky we are.”
“My mom told us when it happened if anyone wants to talk about Teddy, please talk about Teddy,” Shoebridge said. “Keep his memory alive. So when our kids have a tough game, we tell them about Teddy and Marcelo. They [were] Lyndhurst kids and they need to know you’re working hard. When you’re down, push through. They should be proud to be Lyndhurst kids.”
Tom Shoebridge always was. And always will be.