ARLINGTON, Vt. – In his speech at the ESPY Awards in 2014, Stuart Scott said, "When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live." By those standards, John Werner most certainly beat cancer.
Werner, former head coach of the Castleton University men's soccer and women's softball teams inducted into the athletic department's Hall of Fame last September, passed away Friday morning, March 2, at the age of 68 after a courageous battle with cancer.
In numerous e-mails and social media posts, Werner is being remembered as a great coach, but also as a better person. When Chris Chapdelaine was hired as the head coach of the women's soccer team before the 2005 season, he turned to Werner for coaching advice numerous times, and he is still taking lessons from those conversations.
"I had a lot of questions, and Coach Werner was a great mentor, showing me the right way to treat my players. A lot of times, his messages came from just watching him live his life. He loved Castleton, and he loved his players. Even during his cancer battle, he showed so much courage, coming to our soccer matches, giving his speech at the Hall of Fame Induction. I feel very fortunate to have spent so much time learning from him," said Chapdelaine.
John O'Connor followed Werner as head coach of the men's soccer team in 2013, but he asked Werner to stay involved with the program as much as possible. The Spartans had a match at New England College on Sept. 16, 2017, but O'Connor made sure his entire team attended the Hall of Fame Induction to hear Werner's speech.
"I knew of John, but I did not know John before I came to Castleton. We quickly became friends, and he grew into a mentor for me, helping me get a foothold with the other soccer coaches in Vermont. His coaching tree is vast, as there are numerous people around the state who had John as a teacher in high school or were coached by him on a team or as part of his coaching education series. I think he was happy that someone was willing to continue the tradition he had established here at Castleton," said O'Connor.
Most recently, Werner turned his cancer diagnosis into a positive by creating LINAO (Losing Is Not An Option) bumper stickers to raise money to benefit the Southwest Vermont Regional Cancer Center. In fact, his last public appearance came Wednesday night, Feb. 28, as he was honored for turning LINAO into a significant fundraiser for the SVRCC, as the LINAO movement has raised close to $30,000 for the hospital.
Werner served nine seasons as head coach of the Castleton men's soccer team and led the Spartans to a winning record in eight of those years, compiling an overall mark of 105-69-12 (.597). In 2004, his first season at the helm, the Spartans went 15-5-2, winning the NAC regular season title with an 8-1 conference mark. Castleton did not allow a goal in winning the NAC Tournament to advance to the NCAA Tournament, and Werner was named NAC Coach of the Year.
He led the Spartans to NAC Tournament titles and NCAA Tournament berths in 2007 and 2008 and earned NAC Coach of the Year recognition in 2007 and 2010, when Castleton was a perfect 7-0 in regular season conference play. During his tenure, Werner coached two NAC Players of the Year (Ryan Hahn in 2007 and Josh Costa in 2010) and two NAC Defensive Players of the Year (Anthony Buehler in 2010 and Nick Johnas in 2011).
Under Werner's guidance, the Spartans received the NAC Team Sportsmanship Award in both 2005 and 2006, compiled a 55-15-5 (.767) record in NAC regular season play, and competed in two ECAC Tournaments. In the spring of 2009, he added to his duties by serving as head coach of the softball team, earning 46 wins over three seasons.
Before taking the men's soccer head coaching position at Castleton, Werner won the most matches as a head coach in Vermont high school history, earning a 346-108-31 mark in 31 seasons at Arlington Memorial High School. He was named NFICA National Coach of the Year in 1995, NSCAA New England High School Coach of the Year four times, VSCA Vermont High School Coach of the Year six times, and Marble Valley League Coach of the Year five times.
Werner is survived by his wife Judy, his son JK, and his daughter Jordan. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to the Southwest Vermont Regional Cancer Center at https://svhealthcare.org/support-us/give-now/index.html and include LINAO in the tribute/comment field.
--Courtesy of Castleton Sports Information