'I fell in love with the game': Fred Galiote recalls longtime passion for soccer, community

Nov. 10—JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Fred Galiote's start in soccer wasn't on the pitch, but the longtime coach recalled that an opening in the late-1970s put him on the sidelines and started a fulfilling journey in the game.

From there, Galiote said that the game became a passion in short order, leading him to success at Bishop McCort Catholic and Conemaugh Township Area high schools, where he amassed a varsity record of 365-96-9 while winning nine District 5 titles with the Indians and one District 6 crown with the Crimson Crushers.

"That started back in the '70s when I was coaching junior high at St. Andrews," Galiote said. "The coaches quit and I took over. From there, I enjoyed the game so much that I started going to all of the clinics out in Pittsburgh. All of the classes I could get.

"We went up to St. Francis for a weekend. We had to play the game. We had to evaluate the teams.

"I just found it so great and I loved it. I fell in love with the game."

The game that captured Galiote's heart will give him another honor on Thursday when he is part of a five-member group comprising the inaugural class of inductees into The Tribune-Democrat High School Soccer Hall of Fame.

"I was really honored to find this out," Galiote said. "I had no idea that they were going to do this. I was really thrilled about the pick. I'm almost lost for words because it's so great of an honor to be picked for something like this."

Galiote — along with Wilfred "Buddy" Nicholson, Casey Gallaher, Ryan Henry and Ray Leverknight — will be inducted on Thursday and be introduced to the crowd at Greater Johnstown High School's Trojan Stadium between the 13th annual Santa Fund Soccer Classic girls (5:30 p.m.) and boys (7:30 p.m.) contests.

"They're some of the greats in soccer," Galiote said. "Ray, I've known for almost 25-30 years. It's a good pick.

"I'm glad they picked them because as I said, they're leaders in their field. I really enjoy being in that group."

The hall nod also takes Galiote back to the Santa Fund Soccer Classic, where he was selected to coach in the event's first matches in 2011.

"I thought that was an exciting game," Galiote said. "I'm glad they started that, because you got all of your picks from different teams, and you got to work with all of the players.

"It was very rewarding to do that."

On top of his accomplishments in the scholastic game, Galiote was selected to coach in the Keystone State Games and also helped to promote the game at the youth level by coaching in the American Youth Soccer Organization, or AYSO.

"It was half of my life," Galiote said.

"I would like to thank all of my assistant coaches that I had through the years. The fans, and especially all of the young ladies that made this possible so I could get this honor."

He also started a business around the game, owning and operating Soccer City Outlet, which provided uniforms, T-shirts, shoes, socks and shin guards for players along with equipment for teams and officials. It was a labor of love for a community that grew and revolved around the game.

"It was very gratifying to know that all of these teams that we played against, and all the coaches would come in, even the referees would come in," Galiote said. "We were all friends.

"I really enjoyed the customers. I miss them a lot now that I retired."

The camaraderie built within the game formed bonds that superseded rivalries on the pitch.

"We had a lot of talks," Galiote said. "A lot of coaches would come in and buy stuff and we would discuss that we were going to play against each other, but we were all friends. When we were out in the field, we played to win the game for the girls and have a good time. We enjoyed each other. I'm still friends with the coaches and a lot of the players from all of the teams. I run into them now.

"We have no regrets. We didn't hate anybody, didn't dislike anybody. I liked all of them."

While Galiote hung up his whistle and clipboard in 2015, he still takes time to appreciate the game and its growth in quality and participation.

"It's improved so much," Galiote said. "The talent of these young players that are coming up now, they're so talented. They're playing so much younger today. It's so gratifying to see them mature every year, and grow. The soccer game is expanding and I love to watch it. I miss coaching, but I'm enjoying watching the other players win and I'm so gratified watching it."

Shawn Curtis is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5085. Follow him on Twitter @shawncurtis430.