Vroom-ing Into Retirement
by Brian North

Parents, teachers, and coaches are the most influential role models we have in society. When one person is all three, his impact is felt tenfold. I had the pleasure of attending Bob Vroom's retirement party in Swansboro this weekend, and saw just how big an impact this ECU alum has had.

Vroom is a Long Island, NY native who was recruited to ECU to wrestle for the now defunct program. Vroom was a standout grappler from 1970-73. Bob was even invited to the 1972 Olympic trials and lost out to eventual medal winner Richard Sanders. After he graduated, Vroom moved to Swansboro without a teaching degree, but found a place in the Onslow County school system and was soon helping the wrestling program at the middle school.

In 1980, Vroom, who was also a standout soccer player in high school, wanted to start up a soccer program at Swansboro High School. The rest is history. Vroom became one of the most successful coaches in state history. His boys teams won 21 conference titles in 25 years, advanced to the state championship game 14 times, and won seven state titles. Vroom started the Swansboro Pirates girls program in 1993, and six years later had them in the state finals. In 25 years, Vroom amassed 613 combined victories and was recently inducted into the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame. He also helped many players receive college soccer scholarships including Joseph Ellington and Patrick Cutler at ECU.

But maybe the biggest measure of Vroom's success came Saturday night when hundreds of his former players and students paid tribute to their former taskmaster at his retirement party. Their were many tributes and speeches, and a few jokes. Everyone there touched on the life lessons they had learned from Vroom, and how his presence shaped their own lives.  It was a great celebration for a very deserving man.

Bob Vroom is giving up coaching, but the good news is, he will continue to teach. The time freed up from coaching will be spent raising his son and rooting on his beloved ECU Pirates. In fact, my favorite memory of Vroom is talking about ECU football on the Swansboro sidelines while his own Swansboro Pirates, who were so thoroughly prepared and didn't need constant attention, throttled yet another opponent.

So here's to Bob Vroom, a Pirate through and through, and a man who has touched many lives. Let's hope there are more out there like him.

Brian North