Seaford’s Botti is named conference's top soccer coach

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Seaford High School’s girls’ varsity soccer coach, Kenneth Botti, 37, fell in love with the sport as a child, and he has never looked back. Botti’s passion is clearly evident to his coaching peers, because the Nassau County Girls Soccer Coaches Association named him its 2018 Conference AB5 Coach of the Year.

Botti enjoys the competitiveness of the varsity games as well as the maturity of the players. “I’m what I call a soccer nerd,” he said. “I’ve [been] involved in the game since I was 5 years old. Whenever I could play, I’d play.”

He started kicking a ball around as a child in Valley Stream, he said. When his family moved to Seaford in 1995, he began playing for a youth soccer travel team that included both Seaford and Wantagh school district players. He played from his elementary years in Seaford all the way through his graduation from Seaford High in 1999, earning county Honorable Mention awards in his junior and senior years.

He went on to SUNY Cortland, where he earned a degree in phys. ed., and Hofstra University, where he added a master’s in health. He played soccer as a freshman at Cortland, but then, he wrote in a email, “To-ward the end of my freshman year, I got burned out from playing soccer, and played rugby my sophomore, junior and senior years.”

Botti’s love for soccer endured, however, and he returned to the game as a coach 17 years ago. He now lives in South Huntington, and teaches phys. ed. at Seaford Manor Elementary School and Seaford Middle School. He has coached the girls’ varsity team at the high school since its former athletic director, Tom Condon, offered him the position four years ago. He also coaches the junior varsity boys’ lacrosse team in the spring.

Before taking on the challenge of the girls’ varsity, he coached at the middle school and led the boys’ JV squad at the high school. “I always really wanted a varsity program,” he said. “I always wanted to coach at the highest level in high school.”

The 22-member Seaford team played in the association’s AB5 conference last fall, competing against Carey, Hewlett, Oyster Bay, Roslyn and Valley Stream South and amassing a record of 7 wins, 2 losses and 1 tie. The squad was runner-up to conference powerhouse Valley Stream South for the second consecutive year, and was blanked by the Lady Falcons 3-0 and 2-0 in their conference meetings.

Botti said he felt that Valley Stream South should have moved up to the next conference, AB4, after the 2017 season, in which the Lady Falcons not only took conference honors, but won the county and state championships as well. He still doesn’t know why that didn’t happen.

“For some reason, they got put back in my conference,” Botti said. “So I think part of me winning the conference coach of the year was, one: I had a very good, competitive team, but two: People were, I think, a little sour that this very good Valley Stream team got put back in the same conference that they won last year.”

In addition to his team’s 10 conference games, Botti is allowed to schedule a maximum of five non-league games. “I usually try to schedule better teams,” he said — those from higher conferences.

“The hope is that Seaford gets better, and we can win the conference and can move up,” Botti said. “Beyond just one season, my hope is to kind of build the program [and] grow the program and get Seaford into some of the higher conferences.”

According to Botti, the six coaches in his conference voted anonymously for the top coach. And having a successful season is only one factor in determining who gets the award, he said. It also depends on the overall impression a coach makes on other coaches in the conference.

Botti was honored at the Nassau County Girls Soccer Coaches Association awards dinner on Nov. 26 at the Woodbury Country Club.

“I like shaping and molding these kids into not just really good soccer players, but good people,” he said. “For me, coaching is more than just winning; it’s more than just teaching the sport. It’s kind of teaching people how to be . . . people of good character.”