Paul LeSueur was more than a coach, and that was by design. LeSueur, a longtime athletic director and coach at multiple Long Island high schools, wanted to mold his athletes into complete people, not just athletic specimens.
“He had a way to really empower kids,” said his son Peter. “I know positive coaching is pretty popular nowadays, but back when my dad was a coach — and a lot of his former players can attest to this — he really wasn’t there to only give the guys the rules and tell them to fend for themselves. He developed players and he developed people. He used to think of himself as a human engineer, even more so than a coach because he wanted to do more than just teach skills and work on strategy.”
LeSueur, who lived in Garden City, suffered a stroke while presenting awards to his girls basketball team at a Waldorf School of Garden City banquet on June 5 and died on June 10 at Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, his family said. He was 70.
LeSueur was the athletic director at Floral Park High School, Port Washington High School, Wheatley High School, and, most recently, the Waldorf School before his retirement in 2013. He began coaching girls basketball at Waldorf in 2017, a position he remained in until his death.
“He was the definition of what an athletic director looks for in a coach,” said Waldorf School athletics director Shane Flanagan. “He was student-centered, so committed and dedicated. He came early, stayed late when he needed to. He coached the team, but on an individual basis. He was very good at taking players aside and saying what needed to be said to motivate them and bring out the best in them.”
Born on July 16, 1948 in Ruislip, England — a suburb of London — LeSueur moved with his family to the United States when he was 8 years old and soon settled in Garden City.
Although he would eventually become known for his ability to coach almost any sport, LeSueur’s first love was soccer. After staring at Garden City High School, LeSueur moved on to Springfield College in Massachusetts, where he was an All-American and part of the 1968 New England championship team.
LeSueur went on to play professionally for the New York Cosmos, helping them win the 1972 NASL championship. After his Cosmos stint, he played in a number of semi-pro leagues, including with Lynbrook Steuben. He also played amateur soccer with the Garden City Centennials and was involved with the club as either a player or coach for nearly 50 years.
“He was a tall, strong defender,” said former Cosmos teammate Werner Roth, 71, of Los Angeles. “He was English, so he brought that whole British attitude of professionalism to the game. A lot of the younger American players learned a lot from Paul and his attitude and the kind of intensity he brought onto the field and into training.”
LeSueur’s soccer expertise was always in high demand. He was the head men’s soccer coach at C.W Post in the early 1980’s, was an assistant at Adelphi, and was an assistant in the women’s professional ranks with the New York Power and Long Island Fury, and the amateur New York Athletic Club women’s team
LeSueur was also a physical education teacher at Roslyn High School for more than 10 years in the '70’s and early '80s, where he coached boys soccer and lacrosse.
“He taught us a lot about responsibility, humility, accountability, and how to win,” said Peter Hochfelder, 57, of Miami, who played lacrosse for LeSueur at Roslyn High School. “…He had a genuineness to him and an authenticity about him…He came in with the credibility of being a professional athlete and a winner but was also able to talk to us in a way that resonated. He believed in us.”
On top of all his athletic duties, LeSueur was a caring family man, who helped cultivate the athletic and otherwise personal well being of his four children.
“He invested 100 percent of his time and money in his kids,” son Peter, 36, of Manhattan said. “When he wasn’t coaching or teaching other kids, he was spending his free time helping us out in sports and life.”
Peter added: “It wasn’t just that he attended the games, he lived every play with us.”
In the LeSueur household, being a good person was just as important as being athletically gifted.
“I have a reputation for being kind to others and I know I have that because my dad never would have stood for anything other than that,” Peter said. “Lessons along the line of treating someone at the bottom the same way you treat people at the top and having respect for all are some of the things he always stressed.”
LeSueur is survived by his wife of 45-years, Elizabeth, of Garden City, sons Peter, 36, of Manhattan, and Paul, 42, of Garden City, daughters Sarah Schaeffer, 40, of Massachusetts and Bethany LeSueur Hughes, 36, of Garden City, brothers Frank and Phil of Garden City and John of Florida, sister Zoe of Garden City, and 12 grandchildren with a 13th on the way. A funeral was held on June 14 at the Cathedral of the Incarnation of Garden City. LeSueur was cremated, Peter said.
The LeSueur family started the Paul LeSueur Legacy Foundation in his memory, designed to support local charities and ‘community-based organizations.’ More information can be found at paullesueurlegacyfoundation.com.