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Oneida soccer coach remembered as a ‘champion’

Steve Jones
Sports writer
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Posted 2/25/23

Oneida soccer coach Dale McCormick, wasn’t just someone who taught the game but who taught about life and helped build a program at Oneida where those lessons can live on.

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Oneida soccer coach remembered as a ‘champion’


ONEIDA — Oneida soccer coach Dale McCormick, who died Sunday trying to help his two children escape strong ocean waves while swimming on vacation in Florida, was a champion for all the players he taught from youth clubs to the varsity team.

Two coaches in the program noted that McCormick wasn’t just someone who taught the game but who taught about life and helped build a program at Oneida where those lessons can live on.

McCormick, the head coach of the Oneida girls varsity soccer team, drowned. McCormick, age 48, was vacationing with his wife Bettina and their two children, Jaden and Cortney, who both attend Oneida schools. The children, Jaden, an 11th grader, and Cortney, a seventh grader, felt a strong undertow.

Though Cortney got to shore herself, her father went to help her brother. Jaden got back to shore but Dale went out of sight and was later pulled from the water. He was unable to be resuscitated.

McCormick was in his fourth season as the varsity head coach, and was also a long-time coach for local youth soccer.

“He’s going to be sorely missed,” said Andy Butler, a long-time friend and his assistant coach. The two met about eight years ago when Butler’s daughter was on one of McCormick’s AYSO teams. She was 5-years-old and shy, he noted, but McCormick got her out of her shell. “He had a way with kids. He coaxed her out there and got her to play. And by the end of the year she was trying to show off to him. She was so eager to play and play for him.” He continued: “Once you put your kids on his team they became his kids too.” At each end-of-season party, McCormick made sure to celebrate all the players regardless of skill level.

Butler started coaching with McCormick in AYSO when his daughter started playing. Last year he assisted with varsity. “He taught me a lot of about soccer,” as McCormick was not just an experienced coach but “he knew what he was doing,” having been a standout in high school and college himself.

McCormick ended up coaching Butler’s older son too. And while other coaches taught without regard for the players’ style, McCormick harnessed a player’s uniqueness and showed them how to make it an asset. “He knew everything about him just by watching him.”

Butler said, “I can’t say enough about him. More than that he’s been a friend to us on and off the field. When I heard about his passing I didn’t believe it at first. When I heard about what happened, that’s totally Dale. He’s all about his kids.”

Butler said McCormick’s legacy will be about how he taught soccer as a life lesson. “He taugh them life skills. Never giving up. Being creative,” sportsmanship, being kind.

First-year junior varsity coach Nick Bough, age 22, came to the district to teach in the elementary school as a long-term substitute this school year. The district was seeking a JV coach, and though he didn’t know much about soccer, athletic director Bert Conklin assured him McCormick would guide him through it.

“The excitement in Dale’s voice in having someone young willing to learn was just awesome. Going into the season I was pretty nervous, I’m not going to lie.” But, “Dale would work with me to show me how to teach these girls how to play the game. The biggest thing I learned from him wasn’t even about soccer. It was about how to be a coach, how to connect with the players as people.” McCormick’s message was always: “If you win, you win. If you lose, you lose. But you do so respectfully.”

Bough recalled a game in Utica against Thomas R. Proctor High School during the season where his team took the field at 4:30 p.m. with a varsity game two hours later. But McCormick had his players there and cheering before the JV team even finished warming up. When Bough argued some calls with the officials, McCormick was there to back him up.

“It was awesome to see the varsity team cheer on the JV team. That’s how you build a program. That was Dale’s goal, to build a program from AYSO all the way to varsity,” Bough said.

He’d keep in touch with players after they’d go off to college and would check in with high school players on other teams who had played for his AYSO teams.

He was, Bough said, a “selfless person.” When Bough’s last class of the day was scheduled to end a few minutes before the bus was leaving for a road game, McCormick was there making sure everything was ready to go before Bough could even get there.

“When I saw that he passed away, I was obviously shocked but when I saw he helped people in need,” Bough said, that was how McCormick was.

Bough said he hopes to remain in the district and “I would love to” keep coaching. The program, he said, is one that reflects McCormick’s values. “He instilled hard work in all his players. With everyone he knew the respect was always there. I hope to carry that on.”

Bough is meeting with players Monday to talk about McCormick and his values and to reflect on the past season. His main message will be “to tell the girls how much (McCormick) cared about them as people.”

A GoFundMe page for the family at was created by Diane Farina. By Friday it had raised over $20,000 of its $40,000 goal thanks to over 265 donations.


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