Late Nitro coach remembered with candlelight vigil
Dick Green's short time with the Nitro High School girls soccer team won't soon be forgotten.
Green, an assistant coach who collapsed and died Saturday afternoon before a game with Huntington, was remembered Monday night at a candlelight vigil at the Wildcats' home field where several hundred paid their respects, including players from Poca and Winfield girls soccer squads, referees and coaches.
The Nitro girls team members released green balloons with personalized messages to Green before the memorial service. The team also presented Green's family with mementos, including a team photo. The soccer pitch was outlined with tea light candles cloaked in white paper bags that gave off a soft, heavenly glow in the solemn and overcast late summer gloaming.
"We had a hard time coming back on this field, but we know that's what he would want us to do,'' said Nitro coach Kim Aurelio. "Dick passed away doing something that he loved. What better way to go?''
Green was only with the Nitro team for about a month, but his impact has reverberated throughout the program.
"He really brought us together,'' said Nitro's Laine Roberts, one of the Wildcats' co-captains. "We have never been this close before. Even after his passing we're getting closer and just becoming a real team.
"Practices were easygoing and we had a lot of fun, then in the game it would really show how we could come together and do the job. He made us laugh, but we also knew he was serious. He was really a good coach.''
Roberts said the vigil the players deal with the tragedy.
"We came out earlier so it could be more personal with just the team, the coaches and we had two pastors with us,'' she said. "We went to the spot where it happened and got some closure. It made it a lot better. We're all just taking it in and trying to keep it together.''
Roberts said Green's insights were already making a difference for the Wildcats, who have won their first two games.
"We lost nine seniors and we already blew out two teams that had beaten us last year,'' she said. "He worked on where the next play was going to be, two steps ahead. It was really good to have his experience.''
Green was a head coach at Hurricane High from 1999-2008 and was an assistant last year at Poca. He also coached in local youth leagues for more than three decades.
Aurelio said she had been trying the last several seasons to persuade Green to join her staff.
"I was so excited when he finally told me yes he would come out and help us,'' she said. "I've asked him for three years and he would always commit to somebody else.
"These girls instantly bonded with him. He was here every day. Anybody that had him on their sideline was blessed. He has a wealth of knowledge of this game. He would come up with new things every day.''
Aurelio said Green was more than a coach.
"He was a friend, a loved one,'' she said. "He has been a part of my life for 20-plus years. He was my coach growing up. I've known him since I was about 7. He coached me till I was in high school through rec and travel team. He's greatly going to be missed.''
Green's family and Nitro High are working on establishing a scholarship fund in his name and will be accepting donations.
"He was just an inspiration to anyone who knew him,'' Aurelio said. "If you met him it was a joy to have him as a part of your life.''
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.