When asked several years ago to name his greatest coaching highlight, Dick Teetsel listed two: coaching his two sons, Mike and Rick, on the Albertus Magnus track team, and “being part of the transition of track & field and cross country over five decades to the point where Rockland County programs, coaches and athletes are widely known and greatly respected.”
Although he is far too modest to acknowledge it, Dick Teetsel is a big reason why Rockland County programs today are so widely esteemed in the sports of track & field and cross country. No coach has facilitated the growth and development of track & field and cross country in Rockland County more than Dick Teetsel.
Over two separate head-coaching tenures at Albertus Magnus from 1965 to 1981—as well as 11 prior years in Stony Point and Haverstraw schools and later assistant-coaching posts at North Rockland and Nanuet high schools—Teetsel developed philosophies and put in place initiatives that would earn him a reputation as an innovator and trailblazer.
The word “first” keeps cropping up in conjunction with Teetsel’s name. Consider:
• Teetsel launched Rockland’s first winter track program of training and meet scheduling, at Haverstraw-Stony Point in 1963-64.
• Teetsel organized the first invitational scholastic track meet in Rockland history, the Red Raider Relays, in 1962-63.
• Teetsel co-founded (along with Nanuet’s Dave Hanson) the first large-scale spring track invitational in Rockland, the Nanuet Relays, in 1968. The meet drew teams from as far away as Philadelphia and Long Island.
• Teetsel founded the first cross country invitational in Rockland history, the Albertus Magnus Invitational, in 1969.
• Teetsel was the first track/cross country coach in the county to take his team regularly to major competitions outside Rockland, especially to New York City sites such as Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx and the Armory Track & Field Center in Manhattan.
• Teetsel pioneered the “Big-Meet” philosophy of emphasizing the weekend invitational and championship meets over dual meets, a practice that is widely accepted today.
Teetsel’s career as an official was similarly groundbreaking. He was one of the original organizers of the New York State Track & Field Officials Association in the mid-1960s, and is a past president and secretary of that organization. He also was a founder of the Rockland County Track & Field Officials Association (1963) and the Southern Catskill Track & Field Officials Association (1972), and helped develop the written constitution for those two organizations.
Furthermore, Teetsel was the first official in Rockland and Section 9 to use an electronic photo device at the finish line, a precursor to the photo-timing system that is employed at all major competitions today. He also wrote the officials’ clinic curriculum for judging and timing, and developed an operations manual for the proper administration of dual meets.
Teetsel was a timer and meet official for more than three decades at all of the major meets at Madison Square Garden, including the Millrose Games, the USA National Indoor Championships and the U.S. Olympic Invitational, in addition to numerous other competitions such as the Empire State Games and various high school events.
Teetsel’s coaching career at Albertus was highlighted by several successful seasons. He coached the Falcons’ boys’ cross country team to a 10-0 record and the Rockland PSAL championship in 1971—the year Albertus left the Catholic High Schools Athletic Association to join the Rockland public school league. In 1970, when they were still in the CHSAA, the Teetsel-led Falcons defeated PSAL champ Clarkstown in a showdown of unbeaten teams. The crowd at Bear Mountain that day was said to be the largest ever to attend a Rockland cross country meet.
Albertus also had a 33-meet cross-country winning streak under Teetsel. On the girls’ side, Teetsel’s teams won the Rockland PSAL title in 1978 and the Section 9 Class B crowns in 1978 and 1979.
Such is the esteem in which Teetsel is held that the most prestigious award in Rockland County track & field is the Dick Teetsel Award, presented annually to a person who has rendered distinguished service in furthering the cause of track and field in Rockland County. The award is presented each year during a ceremony at the Rockland County Spring Track & Field Championships.
Teetsel is a charter member of the Albertus Magnus High School Hall of Fame. He retired as a high school coach in 1990 and as an official in 2001.
A native of Waverly, N.Y. (west of Binghamton), Teetsel, who is 77, taught physical education and driver’s education for many years. He was a longtime resident of Stony Point before moving to Narrowsburg in Sullivan County about 12 years ago.
Teetsel and his wife, Margaret, are the parents of five grown children: Mike, 43; Maureen, 41; Rick, 40; Jeanne, 39; and Margie, 36.