If they ever erected a Mt. Rushmore for high school coaches in South Jersey, Tim Gushue’s face would likely be etched in stone.
Gushue is probably best known as the football coach at Shawnee High School where he has led the team for 38 seasons.
But he’s also had a distinguished 22-year career as a track coach at Shawnee. He then founded the boys lacrosse team at the high school, and he coached the squad for 12 seasons.
After a brief respite from coaching lacrosse, Gushue has returned to the program to re-take the head coaching role again this season.
He replaces Erick Stilley, who coached the team the past two seasons before leaving to pursue an opportunity in the private sector.
When the door reopened to coach the lacrosse team, it didn’t take long for Gushue to step right in.
“They needed a coach,” the 63-year-old Gushue said when asked his motivation to go back to coaching lacrosse. “I interviewed. There was one other candidate outside the building, and they decided to bring the old war horse back.”
Already the Renegades have met with some early success under Gushue.
With a 16-6 win over Kingsway on Tuesday, Shawnee is off to a 3-0 start to the season.
“This is something I enjoy doing – coaching games,” Gushue said. “This is something I was destined to do. I enjoy the boys, they’re great kids, and I’m not doing this alone. I have a great staff that knows the game inside and out.”
One of those staff members is Gushue’s long-time friend and a volunteer assistant Gene Shulman, who also helps out the football team.
He knows Gushue to be a focused man who knows what it takes to build and maintain a program.
“He’s got a vision; he's got a plan,” Shulman said. “He’s demanding, but he expects the same things from himself that he expects from us. He treats us all like men, and I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to coach with him.”
Gushue’s return also has served as an inspiration to the players, many of whom know him as their football coach.
“I’ve had him for four years now (as a football player) and he’s nothing but a legend,” said senior John Diaz. “He’s my favorite coach ever – all time.”
Like many good coaches, Gushue focuses on developing the person more so than winning and losing. Dias says that approach serves as an inspiration to the players.
“He has a saying where it’s not about winning games, its about being a man – being a good person in general,” Dias said. “He focuses more on treating others the way you want to be treated and, how, if you’re a good person, it will spread throughout your team.”
Gushue, himself, speaks about his belief that culture outweighs other factors that go into building a winning program.
“That’s my firm belief,” he said. “To develop a good culture – the Xs and Os take care of themselves."
It’s a formula that has led Gushue and his teams to many seasons of success. His football team just won its seventh South Jersey Group championship in the fall, and his lacrosse teams have been to four state finals.
The Renegades have never won a state championship, but neither has any other boys team with the exception of Moorestown.
Gushue's return comes at a time when many other men would be thinking about retiring from coaching, just has he has retired from teaching.
Just two years ago he had by-pass surgery, and Gushue says, “that knocked me for a loop.”
But not for long. He seems to have come back with even more vigor and vitality, along with a clear love for what he’s doing.
“I think I still have tons of energy,” he said. “I love competition. I love the challenge of putting a team together.”
He offers proof of his energy level by citing a recent three-week vacation he and his family spent exploring Africa.
“You name, it – I did all kinds of stuff over there,” he said. “I surfed, dove with the sharks, hiked all over the place – climbed a couple of mountains – went on a safari.”
In other words, it’s clear Gushue is not ready to take a step back and live out the remainder his life sitting in a recliner.
“I want to live every moment I can,” he said.