Richard Fineran never played or coached volleyball until 1997 when at the age of 49 he founded the volleyball program at Northeast Regional Vocational High School in Wakefield.
Six years later Fineran’s team won the Commonwealth Athletic Conference championship. He stepped away from the game for one year before coming out of retirement to coach girls volleyball at Pope John XXIII High School in Everett.
His 2009 Pope John team went 19-1 and captured the Catholic Central League championship. This year’s team is again headed to the state tournament.
Fineran’s ascension to becoming one of the state’s most respected and successful coaches (129 wins) over the past decade has merited him a spot at the top of his profession: inducted in to the Massachusetts Girls Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Fineran received the sport’s highest coaching honor during an impressive breakfast ceremony Sunday at Joe’s American Grill in Boston.
Fineran’s wife, Marlene, their son, Michael, volleyball coach at Everett High School, and daughter, Kelly Harrington, volleyball coach at Tollgate (R.I.) High School, joined other family members at the ceremony.
Michael Fineran, 33, said he became involved in volleyball after being inspired by his father and sister’s dedication to coaching and their esteemed knowledge of the sport.
“I learned from my father and my sister and we’ve run practices and clinics together,” said Fineran, a coach since 2003 and a teacher at Everett High School. “I’m very proud of my father and his Hall of Fame induction. It’s a well-deserved honor. The way he started teams from scratch and now Pope John is one of the top teams in the league. His players are well disciplined and they know what they’re doing.”
Kelly Harrington delivered a beautiful, touching speech at the ceremony that aptly captured the man as not only a wonderful father but a dedicated teacher and coach who has instilled a love of the game into the hearts and minds of his players. The fact that he has won championships and coach of the year awards is testament to his still-growing legacy.
“He always knew the value of playing sports and sacrificed his time to support my brother and me as we were involved in high school and college sports,” said Kelly, whose husband, Michael Harrington, coaches Rhode Island volleyball powerhouse Bishop Hendricken High School. “He started coaching later in life. He picked up a sport that he watched his kids play. He dedicated himself to improving and learning.”
Harrington then offered her personal gratitude and congratulations to her father.
“We are very proud of you for your passion and commitment and for the values of athletics that you instilled in us – and now to your players,” she said. “I am excited to be able to recognize you for your awards and achievements.”
Fineran, who teaches in Chelsea, called himself “a late bloomer” in the coaching ranks.
“I started coaching when I was 49 years old, and though it sounds backwards, I was following in my daughter’s footsteps,” said Fineran.
Fineran said he joined the volleyball coaches association and took advantage of the instructional videotape library and annual clinics.
After his successful run at Northeast, Fineran has demonstrated his remarkable coaching skills at Pope John XXIII High School where many of the players arrive with little experience in the game.
Fineran thanked those players and their parents in his speech.
“At the end of the season banquet, I have always given thanks to the parents for letting me coach their child,” said Fineran. “It is a privilege to have been able to coach so many hard-working, dedicated young people over the years and I share this honor with each of them.”
And the beloved teacher and coach saved his final thank you for his wife, Marlene.
“I thank my wife for all her support,” said Fineran who celebrated his 40th wedding anniversary Monday.
“This award is well-deserved recognition for an outstanding coach who works hard to make his players better at the game,” said Leo Robinson, assistant athletic director at Pope John. “I congratulate our Hall of Fame coach on behalf of the entire Pope John community.”