Gregg Sarra Newsday Columnist Gregg Sarra

Gregg Sarra is Newsday's high school sports columnist and writer.

The man simply walked away. But it wasn’t all that simple.

Rob Hoss was torn between his two greatest loves — his family and coaching Sayville football.

Family came first.

The 43-year-old Hoss, who handed his resignation to Sayville athletic director Dennis Maloney this past week, said he will try not to look back. He will leave a dynasty at Sayville, and looking back would hurt too much.

Hoss, who guided Sayville to five Long Island Class III championships and eight Suffolk titles in 10 appearances, said he will push football away entirely and focus on being a dad.

“My three children are at the age where I need to be there all the time,” Hoss said earlier in the week. “There is no such thing as a part-time dad. I’ve done a bad job of always putting the Sayville football program ahead of my family. I don’t know how my wife [Suzanne] always put up with it. I have no regrets about putting the time that I put into the program. But . . . it’s time.”

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He will miss the relationships, the football bond, the daily grind and the butterflies that come with the excitement of the big game.

There will be no routine for Hoss. No recruiting trips, no game-planning, no strategizing, no phone calls, no meetings. Nothing will feel normal. He will go home after fulfilling his duties as a social studies teacher and social studies chairman for the Sayville Union Free School District.

“I don’t have an ‘off’ button and I can’t shut my brain off,” he said. “Even when the season was over, I could never find the perspective and the balance in my life. The more we won, the more I worked. I couldn’t even enjoy winning anymore because I was so afraid to lose — it just consumed me. I love coaching, but I knew I couldn’t do this anymore. I’ll probably coach a PAL team to be with my son.”

“He might not know what to do with himself,” said Hans Wiederkehr, who won two Long Island Class IV football titles at Babylon and walked away — for a time — from the game he loved in 2001 after 15 years of coaching. “It’s a quality-of-life decision. You must respect his thought processes here and how important his family is to him. He’ll settle into a routine. We all do.”

Coach Rob Hoss gets a bath after his Sayville football team won the 2011 Long Island Championship game. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Wiederkehr and Hoss left the sideline under similar circumstances. Wiederkehr also was a successful head coach at a young age and had two daughters and a son.

“Priorities change, and a lot of coaches go through this,” Wiederkehr said. “It’s about the time commitment. And it’s more mental than physical. He’ll be at his daughter’s lacrosse game this summer and not have to worry about who’s covering the weight room or summer football practice. He can just watch her play and enjoy her — and that will feel much different.”

Rob Hoss is a football coach. It’s what has defined him. Now he’ll step out of that comfort zone. And being a dad is a beautiful endeavor that is just as consuming, rewarding and fulfilling as being a successful football coach — in most cases, more so.

His epiphany came in an innocent conversation with his 8-year-old son Robert, who was disappointed that his dad promised to attend his pee wee football game and then missed it because he was at work.

The broken promise drew a heartfelt response from his son: “I don’t trust you.’’

Said Hoss, “I was crushed because I let him down. I knew it was time to retire.”

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East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi said Hoss’ decision to leave didn’t surprise him and that the two have talked about family commitment.

“The comment from his son was the last straw — it really hit home,” Ciampi said. “We all try to balance family and job and family and coaching. It’s not easy. And it’s not just coaches — it could be anyone who has children in sports and works full-time.”

Ciampi, 40, who also has three children, has been a highly successful head coach for East Islip baseball and football since 2001. He’s found time to balance coaching, teaching and spending time with his son Alex, 9, and daughters Lia, 6, and Emma, 4.

“I coach the high school team and then coach my son’s pee wee team three nights a week,” Ciampi said. “It’s going to run me into the ground, but I don’t want to miss anything with my son growing up.”

Hoss made the right choice here. He knows he doesn’t get a do-over with his own children. The younger years come and go, and they go quickly.

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So he walked away after 15 brilliant years on the job he coveted as a Sayville alum and accepted in 2002. He had a career record of 130-29, including three undefeated seasons. He led the Golden Flashes to an .818 winning percentage, second highest in Suffolk history.

His accolades are many. He took the Golden Flashes to 13 playoff appearances in 15 years, enjoyed a 23-game winning streak and earned two Rutgers Trophies, presented to Suffolk’s best team.

The adrenaline rush he got when his teams persevered will be replaced by the high he gets when his daughters Brooke, 13, and Taylor, 11, shoot him a smile from across the lacrosse field. Even more than their goals and his son’s touchdowns, the fact that he is a part of the experience is what will matter.

Ciampi thinks Hoss will be back on the sideline someday.

“Eight years from now, we’ll be standing there listening to the national anthem and my son will be by my side on the East Islip sideline,” Ciampi said. “And I’ll look across the field and I’ll let you guess who will be standing there with his son by his side on the Sayville sideline.”