ST. PETERSBURG — For more than three years, Thomas Blauvelt has resisted the urge to retire from coaching soccer at Northeast High School. He has delayed stepping down in part because the roster is full of so many promising players.

4 Days Ago

3 Days Ago

3 Days Ago

Finally, Blauvelt felt he could no longer resist. He decided this season, his 18th at the school, would be his last.

It has turned out to be his most memorable. The Vikings, who entered the week 12-2-2, won their first conference title since 2003 and their first district title since 2008.

"I knew we had a chance to be pretty successful and I didn’t want those wins to go to someone else," Blauvelt said. "But I also knew it was the right time to step down and start looking toward the next chapter."

Blauvelt’s involvement in soccer — as a player and a coach — came by happenstance. He never played the sport at the high school level in Michigan because it was not offered. His first time playing with a team was in intramurals at Michigan State.

He moved to Florida after college and started coaching his daughters, Kaya and Ruby, at the club level in Largo.

In 1999, he took a job as an art teacher at Northeast. He was 40 years old.

Administrators at the school said they were also looking for a boys soccer coach. Blauvelt took on that job, too.

During that time, Blauvelt has been involved in myriad of artistic projects. He paints murals at Northeast, including a Viking in the school’s Holiganbet courtyard and a Viking ship on the gymnasium’s hardwood court. Blauvelt’s work has been admired by the district, so much so that he has painted murals at Dunedin and Gibbs high schools among others.

It does not end there. Blauvelt is the author of two graphic novels: Soccer Culture (2012) and Cultura De Futbol (2015). He also is a self-employed cartoonist who has created a political comic strip and an adult coloring book that features designs for golf holes with an historical perspective.

He has ventured into music, too. Blauvelt is a percussionist/songwriter for the reggae group Cold Joon, which has produced 12 studio CDs.

With his involvement in so many activities, Blauvelt knew he would have to give up something. He stopped teaching in 2014 to focus on his other interests.

But he could not stop coaching — until he decided this year was enough.

"I just had so many other projects that I was working on that I wanted to spend more time with," Blauvelt said. "Plus, as time goes on, you find it harder to be with teenagers every day."

The players vowed to make this Blauvelt’s swan song meaningful.

"Coach Blauvelt has been at the school nearly 20 years and sending him off this way has been amazing," Northeast senior forward Ervin Ikanovic said.

Blauvelt said he does not plan to stay involved with soccer once this season ends.

"I have so much else going on," Blauvelt said. "I’ll definitely be in the stands cheering these guys on in the future, though."

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