Say It Ain’t So

Ralph Wager photo from RL Thomas yearbook, Webster, NY 1968

After all the paintings and drawings that I’ve done from mugshots it is startling to study one of someone I once knew. My high school soccer coach was arrested a few days ago in South Carolina on sex crimes with a child in the 1980’s. I never could figure out why he left this area, he had built up such a successful soccer program.

I used to play in summer evening pickup games at the old high school and Ralph was one of the players. We did shirts and skins or sometimes brought an additional white t-shirt to discern the sides. Most of the guys were older than me and Ralph was the oldest so he was somewhat of an instructor. He was a finesse player. Light touch, European style, short pass and possession. He wore a beret and drove a Citroen and was hired by the school in my senior year as varsity soccer coach. We went to the sectionals and lost to Gates. I don’t think I ever saw him again. I talked to another teammate and he said, “I would like to believe this isn’t true but I bet it is.”

Ralph had taken some graduate courses at Indiana University and he suggested I go there. IU had a great soccer team and there was talk of a scholarship. I played one year, was the first freshman to start for IU, and then dropped out. I still love the game. We drove to my parents house this afternoon to watch the US Women’s team beat France. Abby scored on a header and on the way home we drove by her family’s place, Wambach Farms. I’m thinking now we should have honked.

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5 Responses to “Say It Ain’t So”

  1. sb Says:

    a W.

  2. johnboy Says:

    Ralph as a player was all about himself. He should have started his own marketing firm. He was a good player as long as he could look good and when he got to Brockport he hid in his room because he could not live up to HIS press clippings. Ralph was gutless and would never get the seat of his pants dirty. As a high school underclassmen I had the mispleasure of playing alongside him and his selfish senior classmates. Over the years I ran into 3 individuals who coached or played with him and they all thought he was the biggest phony they ever met.

  3. agneaux Says:

    I had Ralph as a soccer and swim coach from 1969-1973 at R.L. Thomas High School in Webster, NY. At no time did I ever feel that he was anything less than a great coach and mentor. There was never any inappropriate conduct on his part and I never heard any other players mention anything about him in that regard. I rode in his blue Citroen DS21 and thought it was the coolest car on the planet; I now own two Citroens of my own, so I guess he made a good impression on me!

  4. George Sukach Says:

    Wager saw me playing at Gym Class when I went to Schoder in the early 70’s. He made it a point to come and invite me to play for the Cheetahs at the time. He seemed to be nice and I never had anything problems with him. However, I will say on retrospect that it was odd that he wasn’t married? Or, at least I don’t remember a Mrs. Wager. Things were not quite right…a nice looking man, not married, hanging with a bunch of boys? Certainly these days, someone in that position with all of the oddities would most certainly be looked at…

  5. Jim Says:

    I grew up in Rochester playing soccer and I played for Ralph from 85-87 at Catawba. He was a Great great coach and he always made time for you and if you needed anything he was there for you. I was always proud that I played for him. However, after I graduated I moved back to Rochester, I heard rumors on why he had to resign so I beleive the school knew something was up. Ralph was well respected by the administrators. He did a lot of “healing” for almost every player at some point. He believed in releasing the pressure points and it did help. But looking back on it – it probably was his way of satisfying some of his urges. I’m so sorry for those two boys and I give them credit for standing up for themselves now. I hope they don’t let this define their lives. I’m also sad for Ralph becuse he knew what he did was wrong. I wish he was strong enough to get help.

    I will never forget a conversation I had with Ralph when I first visited Catawba. He told me that he believes in reincarnation and this was his third life. In his first life he was an egyption, his second a shrewed English businessman and this is his third life. He said that in each life you have to strive to be a better person than the previous life. That was why he liked helping people. It is all very tragic.

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