BERKELEY – When Norm Selby was the head coach of the Central Regional High School girls softball team, winning was the norm.
There was the 1981 Shore Conference Class A South championship. There were Class B South co-championships in 1990 and 1992. There were Class B South titles in 1988, 1993 and 1994.
There were Ocean County Tournament crowns in 1981, 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1992. There were New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association South Jersey Group III titles in 1986 and 1988. There was a Shore Conference Tournament championship in 1994.
There was a berth in the SCT championship game in 1993. There were berths in the 1986 and 1994 South Jersey Group III final. There was a berth in the 1981 South Jersey Group IV championship game. There was the Pemberton Invitational title in 1988.
There were 11 Coach of the Year honors from the Ocean County Observer (1982, 1986, 1988. 1992 and 1994), the Newark Star Ledger (1986) and WOBM (1981, 1984, 1988, 1992 and 1994).
There were 254 career wins. There were a mere 95 losses. There was one tie.
To put it mildly, Selby’s career (1981-1994) was chock full of championships and honors for him and his players.
Selby was honored Saturday, May 14, when the Golden Eagles’ diamond was dedicated as the Norm Selby Field. The event was named the Norm Selby Softball Field Dedication Ceremony.
“We must have done something right,” he said prior to the ceremony. “People must believe we are worthy of remembering. I hope they remember the young women who proudly wore the Garnet and Gold and did their best rather than me. I stood in the coaching area. They played the game.”
Winning several battles with tears, Selby spoke in front of approximately 100 people, including about 40 of his former players. He received a proclamation from Berkeley Township Mayor Carmen Amato Jr. The document proclaimed the day Norm Selby Day in the township.
“I would like to thank the (Central Regional) board of education, the mayor and the council for this honor,” Selby said. “I would also like to thank my own family for its support. It was not easy for my wife, Karen, as we had four kids under the age of six when I began coaching. They went to our games in the back of a little Ford Pinto station wagon, probably illegal these days. ‘G’ (then-veteran assistant coach Gloria Garibaldi) and other people came to our home after our games.
“My wife cooked at various hours for the girls. We hosted various parties and picnics. I owe my family an awful lot. I thank the parents of my players. There are good, true hard working people in Berkeley Township. Parents built our dugouts and the backstop. I thank you for raising such magnificent people as daughters.
” ‘G’ came up with me. Without her, these 250-some victories would not have been achieved. During our practices, she whaled the ball at our fielders. Balls were hit harder in our practices than they were during our games. ‘G,’ hats off to you (Selby presented Garibaldi with flowers).”
“Approximately 113 young ladies wore the Central uniform with pride and class. They were the best. They all turned out to be fantastic people. I am very, very proud of them. I hope the ladies wearing the Central Regional uniform will bring pride, joy and respect to Central Regional High School.”
Prior to Selby’s speech, Central Regional School District Superintendent Triantafillos Parlapanides spoke to the crowd.
“We were very lucky to have had Mr. Selby as a teacher,” he said. “He was one of the best teachers to retire from Central Regional. I am very proud to dedicate this field as Norm Selby Field.”
Central athletics director John Scran, the school’s former baseball coach, told the crowd, “A special welcome to his family, friends and other supporters. A special thanks to Marlboro (a 3-2 winner over Central in an SCT first-round game after the ceremony) for showing sportsmanship. Coach Selby was much more than just a coach. He was a role model who taught young ladies life’s lessons by using the game of softball.”
Selby received a softball bat honoring the dedication from Scran on behalf of the Central Regional Board of Education. Another speaker was former player Agnes Whitfield, a Central health and physical education teacher.
“Without this man, all of those championships don’t happen,” she said. “He had an amazing career. It was an honor and a pleasure to play for this town and coach Selby. He was a role model, a father figure and a proud softball dad. When people ask us who we played for, we proudly say, ‘Mr. Norm Selby.’ “
After the ceremony, Whitfield presented Selby with a box containing pictures of each team he coached.
“Coach Selby was left-handed,” she said after the dedication. “When he greeted us, he would extend his left hand and say ‘Norm Selby.’ We would kid him about that. He knew once it was gametime it was gametime and that everyone should be focused. I am very happy for coach Selby. This was a long time coming. You could not ask for a better coach. ” In looking at the number of former players who came, she said “That shows you the impact he had on us.”
Several ex-players spoke to the media prior to the ceremony. One, Karen Smith-Moreland, wore her 1984 Ocean County Tournament championship jacket.
“Coach Selby was very successful,” she said. “He taught us hard work, self-respect. He taught us a love of the game. We developed self-esteem. He taught us a desire to win … you had to earn it. He taught us life skills that we use today.”
Practices were intense.
“Practices were very disciplined,” she said. “He used to give us trivia questions about geometry, history and math – anything we could use in a classroom – while we did leg lifts. They were random school questions. We could not put our legs down until they were answered correctly.”
Smith-Moreland said it was a pleasure to play for Selby.
“We enjoyed playing for him,” she said. “He took a bunch of eclectic young ladies and gave us a sense of team, togetherness and camaraderie. We could not wait to come to practice. We could not wait to have a game.”
Teri Sisa, who played on the Golden Eagles from 1980-1982, said Selby was quick with one-liners.
“He said, ‘When you slide into second base, take her out,’ ” Sisa said. “He also said, ‘Get the piano off your back,’ when we ran the bases.”
A catcher during the 1983-84 seasons was Ellen Mahoney.
“He had a croquet bracket and he called me, ‘Wicked Legs Mahoney,’ ” she said. “I missed the ball except when it went either right or left.”
Mahoney said Selby touched her life beyond softball.
“He turned me into a different person,” she said. “He made me realize what hard work could do for you. I was bad news until I played for him. He turned me around. He taught me what teamwork and hard work were. He used to check our report cards. He kept me on the straight and narrow as I got my grades up.”
Retired Lacey Township High School athletics director Karen Hughes, a 1981 Central graduate, played for Selby during her senior season.
“I met him when I was in the junior varsity program,” said Hughes, a former Central basketball standout who completed four New York City Marathons and 100 miniature triathlons. “We were a family. He had to understand the game and parlay his knowledge to his athletes. He did that. We had dynamic athletes who more importantly played softball. Our success was because of a lot of work by coach Selby. Sometimes, it was sheer luck. Luck is not a bad thing. I will take luck.”
Hughes said she enjoyed the event.
“Walking on this field takes me back to a very happy time in my life,” she said. “It’s nostalgic quite frankly. I was able to see people I haven’t seen in a long time – over 40 years.”
Selby spoke for about 10 minutes. Several of his ex-players wore their varsity team jackets in his honor.
“A lot of them I never expected to see,” he said. “One came from Georgia. One came from South Carolina. One came from Pennsylvania. They were kind enough to come back. We had a lot of good teams. Anyone who played at least three varsity seasons with us won one title. I take a lot of pride in that. They received at least one positive moment in their career of high school softball.”
Speaking prior to the event, Selby said he learned of the honor in an Aug. 26, 2021 letter from Parlapanides. Selby said he received the letter by hand from his daughter, Lorrin Selby, who is employed by the district.
“All of my family knew this honor was happening,” said Selby, 75. “My family gathered with me to surprise both my wife and I with the letter from Dr. P.”
Teams were not chosen based on academic classes.
“We always had a blend of all classes,” Selby said. “Coach Garibaldi and I never chose our teams based on class. We chose them on ability. We never thought twice about selecting freshmen for the team. Also, our teams got along and I believe actually liked each other. We pushed the concept of Central Softball above personal achievements.”
Garibaldi played a large role in the Golden Eagles’ success.
“Words could never explain what ‘G’ meant to our program,” Selby said. “She and I thought alike. Don’t treat the young ladies as girls. They are athletes. Treat them as such and expect an athletic performance from them. Having a woman of ‘G’s caliber gave us an advantage. We would never have had the success we did without her.”
Working under Selby at the junior varsity and freshman levels were Phyllis Angellella-Aires, Sisia, Angela Slack-Selby and Joe Winkelreid. Harry Schilling coached the Middle School team.
Selby stopped short of naming his best team. He rattled off the overall records of the 1981 team (26-4), the 1988 team (27-3), the 1986 club (20-7-1) and the 1994 team (27-2 and the winner of 23 straight games).
“I’d rather not try to select one team over the others in terms of which team was the best,” he said. “As for our best players, again I would rather not select individuals since it is a team sport. We were blessed with many excellent players every year. What also helped us was that we lost very few players to other sports and jobs, etcetera. The ladies stayed with us for two, three and four years – 21 young ladies were four-year varsity players. We even had nine sets of sisters who played for us.
“People who followed softball in the 80s, early 90s would know the names of our best players. All of the young ladies at Central contributed in some way to our success.”
Defense was emphasized.
“I don’t believe there is a style (of play) in softball,” Selby said. “Our belief was that the most important part of the game was defense, including pitching. We practiced defense for about 80-85 percent of the time and told our pitchers, ‘You don’t have to be strikeout artists. Just limit the walks.’ “
Central had its share of great moments in the field. Take one that took place in the 1992 OCT championship game against Toms River East.
“It’s one specific play that stands out in my mind,” Selby said. “A defensive play that we practiced for years finally came to fruition.”
It began with a runner on second base. The pitcher was Tara Menschner, who fielded a ground ball.
“She checked the runner at second and wheeled the ball to Amber Dafeldecker at first base to get the batter out,” Selby said. “Amber then threw the ball across the diamond to Erika Applegate at third, cutting down the runner – double play!”
Success preceded Selby, who was an unofficial assistant coach prior to becoming the junior varsity mentor for four seasons under then-coach Marshall Davenport.
“Our (overall) record was 45-14,” Selby said. “When Marshall retired, Jerry Golembeski (then Central’s athletics director) offered me the job. Loving the sport and knowing that I would be working with many of the same girls on the varsity team who I had on our junior varsity team made the decision easy.”
Selby’s teams were fiercely competitive.
“I put a huge amount on myself and our teams to win,” he said. “I wanted the program to be a success. After a couple of tough years, Marshall had gotten things going well for Central and I wanted to continue that and actually improve on it. Plus, I didn’t – and still don’t – like to lose. I certainly didn’t want to be unprepared, which is why ‘G’ and I would scout teams before it became fashionable in softball.”
Selby frowned upon rituals.
“I disliked chants, jingles and songs,” he said. “I never knew them to help in a game. Give verbal support. We used the well-known slogan, ‘Offense wins games. Defense wins championships.’ Before our team went on the field at the beginning of a game, we would gather and together say, ‘DEFENSE!’ I don’t know how or why we went with it. We practiced defense so why not emphasize it!
“I internalized losing! I don’t believe I said much after losing a game. We never pointed out one player as the cause. We win together. We lose together.”
A key reason for success was the Berkeley Township Girls Softball League.
“I am surprised at the amount of success that we had,” Selby said. “I am not surprised at the fact we had success. During our tenure, the league took off and we had many fine girls early on. Once we had success in 1981 and again in 1984, I believe we were off and running. Some of the girls told us that as young players they knew of our success and wanted to be a part of it. Thanks Berkeley parents!”
Selby became a member of the Central Regional High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995. He’s also in the New Jersey Athletic Hall of Fame.
“Both are important,” he said, “but Central means a little more to me since it was voted on by people who truly knew me and the work of the young ladies of Central Regional High School.”
Selby also coached freshman boys basketball (1969-1970), junior varsity boys basketball (1971-1973), football as an assistant from 1983-1992 and girls tennis as an assistant from 1991-1992. He coached and taught at Central – his lone school – for 33 years. He taught U.S. History I to juniors from 1968-2001.
“I retired from coaching softball because after 18 years I felt it was enough,” he said. “I inherited a good squad from Marshall. I hoped ‘G’ would take the job after I retired, but she decided to leave as well. The athletics director gave the job to coach Winkelreid. ‘G’ and I left the cupboard full when we left. The first baseman, shortstop, third baseman, left fielder and right fielder were all returning from our final team and there was a quality group of young ladies to fill the other spots. Central won the state title two years later with the same five players and subs.”
Softball was a family affair for Selby. He coached his daughters, Shannon, a pitcher and a 1990 graduate; Lorrin, a left fielder and a 1992 graduate, and niece, Jill Hirshblond, a second baseman and a 1994 alum.
“And little did I know at the time that Angel Slack, who graduated in 1988 and pitched, would become my daughter-in-law,” he said.
Selby and his wife raised several children. The couple hosted a gathering of nearly 50 at their Berkeley home. Scrapbooks from each of the team’s seasons were features of the party. Karen Selby designed the scrapbooks and did some of the cooking.
“Well,” he said, “like all coaches you are affected by what goes on at home. When I started coaching, Karen was left from March 1-June to handle everything. We played and practiced six days per week and of course during Easter vacation. My wife never complained. She made it to just about every game and was our biggest supporter although at critical moments of games she would hit the woods – leave the field – because pressure got to her.
“Knowing the homestead was taken care of by my wife freed me to coach. Thanks Karen!!”
A Florida resident for seven years, Selby enjoys traveling, especially cruising, gardening and wood working. He and his wife are the grandparents of one United States Marine, one college student, two Central seniors who will graduate June 17 and one Central Regional Middle School student.
“As far as my legacy, I want it to be merely that we tried to teach the game,” Selby said, “and that we played it fairly and tried to be honest and truthful to our young women.”