Despite nearly 40 years of success coaching both football and baseball, Tom Verbanic seems almost bashful about being honored for his work.
“It’s a great honor,” he said of being named Washington Metro High School Coach of the Year by the DC Touchdown Club. “It’s probably not deserved, but it’s a nice award.”
Like Morgan Wootten, Verbanic has succeeded as a two-sport coach, managing to juggle the commitments required of both all the way up until this year. And though he credits both his wife and his assistant coaches for the support that has made that possible, he admits — as Wootten did — that it’s a tough act to pull off.
“He’s not wrong — it’s not an easy thing,” said Verbanic. “Football, especially, is 365 days a year.”
Now in his 60s, Verbanic is taking the year off from football. He’ll decide after his sabbatical whether to continue with just baseball, or work football back into the fold. But if he chooses not to go back to the gridiron, he’ll have left on just about the highest possible note.
Flint Hill steamrolled to a perfect 11-0 record in 2017, beating Collegiate 33-21 for the VISAA I state title in what would be the closest finish all year. Then, last season, the Huskies pitched four shutouts on the way to another perfect season and another state title, outscoring opponents 495-90 on the season. That means the program is riding a 22-game winning streak into the fall.
But Verbanic’s football success has hardly come at the expense of that on the diamond. Nova Baseball Magazine recently ranked him the top coach in the region. Verbanic sits just a handful of wins shy of 400 for his baseball coaching career, to go along with 234 on the gridiron.
Those to come out of his baseball program include Nationals Triple-A utility man Brandon Snyder, as well as Angels outfielder and George Mason product Justin Bour. Keep an eye out for Khalil Lee as well, currently the No. 2 prospect in the Kansas City Royals’ system (and No. 61 in baseball heading into the season, according to Baseball Prospectus), who is off to a hot start at Double-A Northwest Arkansas and won’t turn 21 until June.
Verbanic’s success has remained steady, even as he’s seen the coaching dynamic change over the years from one of fear and respect to one more of camaraderie and respect.
“Kids have to like you. It used to be a good day when the coach didn’t speak to you,” he said.
Understanding this changing reality was key when came to Westfield, at the time a new school that was combining student populations from two existing schools. He instructed his coaches to take a different player each day, when leaving the field after practice, and talk to them about something, anything other than football.
If there’s one piece of advice he’d give current coaches, it’s not to be in such a hurry to get to the next game after a positive result, but to actually bask in the glory of victory when it comes, at least for a night.
“During the season, you don’t celebrate victory enough. You win a game, you’re on to the next one,” he said. “You’ve got to at least give yourself 12 to 14 hours to enjoy the one you got.”
Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.