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Ted Gillen – Back Where He Belongs
October 31, 2002

Ocean County Observer feature acticle on Boca alumni and men’s team member Ted Gillen – published October 31, 2002.

“Back where he belongs: Gillen enjoys being at North”

Published in the Ocean County Observer 10/31/02

Staff Writer

TOMS RIVER — The business suit, the computers, the pressures of handling other people’s money. They were too much for Ted Gillen.

“I got tired of the rat race,” he said.

Corner kicks. Goals. Shutouts. Even bad calls by officials. They’re more like it for the Toms River High School North head girls soccer coach.

Gillen comes to North from Long Island, N.Y., where he worked as an annuity specialist for Merrill Lynch for the last six years.

“I love it here,” he said. “The more I was away, the more I felt I wanted to come back. I have two nieces here who I enjoy immensely. The summer is too great to be away from this place. I love the ocean. I love the beach. I love to run (Gillen has completed three marathons in as many attempts) down here. A lot of my friends and family are still here.”

Gillen has been around. He starred at Toms River East, helping the Raiders win the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association 1985 Group IV state title. He won honors at Penn State where he played under a coach named Walter Bahr, the father of former NFL kickers named Matt and Chris. He was a member of the United States National Team. He was a member of the Final 50 before being trimmed from the Olympic team bound for Seoul.

He played professionally for the New York-New Jersey MetroStars of Major League Soccer.

He coached collegiately at major universities.

He has played in Canada, England, South America, Holland and Mexico.

Yes, Ted Gillen has been around — only to find there is no place like home.

“So far, it has been terrific,” he said. “I enjoy coaching the girls and bringing back to the area a lot of what I have learned. I feel I can help kids in this area.”

This is Gillen’s first year of coaching girls at any level although he has worked with them at camps.

“Coaching high school girls has been an eye-opening experience to say the least,” he said. “It’s new. I am used to coaching collegiate players. There are 21 girls standing in front of you. They are different than boys in terms of their behavior. I coach soccer the way I have always coached it. I have gotten to know the girls. I have learned how to push their buttons and how to let up when I am supposed to. It has turned out to be a very rewarding experience.”

The Mariners struggled to a 6-9-3 record last season. Under Gillen, North has qualified for the Shore Conference and NJSIAA tournaments. One of the Mariners’ biggest victories was a conquest of defending Group III champion Toms River South in a regular-season match.

“I am very excited about what our girls have done,” he said. “I am pleased with them and proud of them. They have been very receptive to me. I hope they have learned a lot. Right now, I am trying to work through the first season. I am not looking much farther than that. I learn each day.”

Gillen is a student teacher at North. He reports to James Cleveland, the Mariners’ head boys basketball coach. Cleveland keeps the clock at several of North’s home girls soccer matches.

“I am in the classroom with James each day,” Gillen said, “and he has made this experience tremendous. He has allowed me to have a smooth transition into North into a brand new teaching environment. I really enjoy teaching.”

Gillen showed early in his career that he had the stuff to be a leader.

He captained the Raiders with Mike Ruhnke and Joe Flaherty when they won the title under first-year coach Bob Czarniewski, now an East assistant.

“We had a senior dominated team,” said Gillen, who played sweeper, “and we trusted C.Z.”

The Raiders, Gillen recalled, were 11-5 at one point. Hardly the record state championship dreams are made of.

“I remember C.Z. and (assistant coach) John Crowley trying to motivate us by discussing the team banquet,” Gillen said. “They did so prematurely. We were seniors. It was our year. We refused to be beaten by teams with a bunch of underclassmen.”

The Raiders won the title, downing Westfield in the final rain on the artificial surface at Trenton State College, now The College of New Jersey.

Gillen won’t forget the championship. On their way back to school, the Raiders were escorted by fire trucks.

“We had a lot of confidence going into the state tournament,” Gillen said, “and we were able to put it all together. Looking back, that championship is one of — if not the highlight of — my career other than playing on the national team and turning professional. That was very special, very special.”

The Raiders bought themselves rings. Gillen’s sits in a drawer.

“I am part of a select group that I can say won a Group IV state title,” he said. “The experience taught me to take responsibility for my team and to take ownership of my team. Winning the title gave me an air of confidence, knowing I got there and won it. So many aspire to do it. So few achieve it.”

At Penn State, Gillen played under Bahr for two years. The Nittany Lions advanced to the NCAA Final Eight during his freshman season. Gillen played left back and sweeper and captained the team during his final two years. A teammate for three seasons was former Toms River South scoring machine Eric Friberg.

“Eric and I lived down the hall from one another for three years,” said Gillen, who received a bachelor of science degree in economics from Penn State University and a masters degree in business administration from James Madison University.”

Gillen chose Penn State over Rutgers, Seton Hall and North Carolina.

“I chose Penn State because I fell in love with it on my recruiting visit,” he said. “I loved the campus and how they treated their athletes. I loved the atmosphere among the team members. I was very impressed with coach Bahr. At that time, Penn State was a top 10 team and that was a level I aspired to play at.”

Gillen was on the National team from 1987-90. He was a left back and left fullback on the National and Olympic teams, respectively.

“At the age of 19, I trained and traveled with the Olympic team,” he said. “I was too young in 1988 when the average age was probably 24. For the next Olympics, the age requirement was 23 and I was too old at that point. When I was 19, they felt I was too young and inexperienced.”

Gillen was chosen 33rd overall in the MLS Draft by the Metro Stars. New York-New Jersey’s sixth pick, Gillen played one season as a left midfielder, appearing in 21 matches and starting 16.

“At that time, nobody knew what the league was going to be all about,” said Gillen, 34. “I had a good tryout and I was asked to report to a combine in California. I didn’t have a very good combine in my opinion, but the MetroStars took a chance on me. Playing with them taught me how to think three, four and five passes ahead. The game is much more mental than physical at the professional level. The game is much faster as the guys are physically stronger and mentally smarter.

The physical skills of the players are fairly comparable. Whether you can mentally adjust is the big question. I learned the season is long. They play 32-35 games in five months. The season was much longer than anything I was used to. Staying physically and mentally fit over that length of time was new to me. I didn’t realize how much that would take its toll. A Major League Soccer match is the most intense two or three hours you will ever experience. It was certainly a step up from college ball or anything I was used to. Even from the National Team, it was a step up.”

Gillen played in the MLS during its infancy.

“It was the league’s inaugural year,” he said, “and it was a great experience. It was exciting. It was a chance for me to experience life as a pro even though my contract was not what you would normally think of for a pro athlete. The treatment was first class. I feel I learned a great deal from the experience. I hope to bring back what I learned to the kids in this area.”

After playing with the MetroStars, Gillen entered the business world with Merrill Lynch.

“I decided to try to make a life for myself,” he said. “I felt it was time to go out into the working world. I felt I accomplished all of the goals I set for myself.”

Gillen launched his career at the age of four in Kearny, a town which craves soccer.

“My parents, Jim (who played for Kearny High School), and Lottie, put my brother, Jim, into soccer when he was six,” Gillen said. “I refused to say no to my parents when they asked me if I wanted to play. I was the tag-along little brother.”


The following is a look at Ted Gillen, Toms River High School head girls soccer coach and a former professional player.


2001: Volunteer assistant coach, University of Maryland.

Summer, 2001: Preseason trainer, University of Pennsylvania.

2000-01: Volunteer assistant coach, Syracuse University.

Summer, 1998: Assistant coach of East team, Olympic Festival.

1993-96: Assistant coach, Penn State University.

1991-93: Assistant coach, graduate assistant coach, James Madison University.


1997-99: Professional, New Jersey Stallions, National Professional Soccer League.

1996-97: Professional, New York-New Jersey MetroStars, Major League Soccer.

1990: San Diego Sockers, Professional Indoor Soccer.

1987-90: United States National Team.

1988: United States Olympic Team, member of Final 50 before being trimmed from team bound for Seoul.

1986-89: Penn State University.

1982-86: Toms River High School East, member of the 1985 New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association state Group IV championship team.


1997: 33rd pick overall in Major League Soccer Draft, New York-New Jersey MetroStars.

1989: All Mid-Atlantic All-American, All-Atlantic 10, Member of East team in Senior East-West All-Star Game, member of East team in East-West Indoor All-Star Game, 10th overall draft pick of Cleveland Crunch of Major Indoor Soccer League. Captain of Penn State team.

1988: All Mid-Atlantic All-American, All-Atlantic 10. Captain: of Penn State team.

1987: All-Atlantic 10.

from the Ocean County Observer

Published on October 31, 2002