Neil Muscatiello

  Neil Muscatiello  

 
Neil Muscatiello ‘64, Westwood’s only two-sport All State athlete talks about his recent Hall of Fame induction, recalls Cardinals football in the early 1960’s, endorses student athletes playing multiple sports, and reflects on the life lessons taken from sports that enabled him to successfully lead several New York State Capital region school districts.

 

 Q: How did it feel being inducted into the Westwood Regional High School Athletic Hall of Fame?

 

A: What a terrific and inspiring evening we had a few weeks ago at Seasons.  Being among this year’s Hall of Fame inductees is a tremendous personal honor, but I represent all that were in the foxhole with me -- on the football field and on the wrestling matt –- my teammates and coaches.  Over fifty years later, I still love all those guys. 

 

Q: What do you remember about Cardinals football all those years ago?
 

A:  Everything!  We were 6-3 my senior year... the best record of my four years.  We practiced and played all our games at the A Field (Ketler). I loved that field of natural grass.  On game days we'd go for breakfast then over to the field to prepare.  After warm-ups, we retreated to the field house to get taped, checked out by Dr. Levy - such a wonderful man, and put on our pads.  We kept our cleats off until we left the locker room so we we could walk quietly until just before we walked over the wooden bridge.  As we put on our cleats, we started stopming on the bridge, louder and louder so the visiting team knew we were coming.  By the time we got near the field we were crazed.


 
Q: So, Westwood home football games were special back then, too?

 

A:  Second to none.  We had pep rallies before many home games. The Westwood fans were the greatest fans really.  Game day was a big day. The stands were always filled to capacity and there were people standing all around the field.  We had a great marching band, great honor guard, cheeleaders - the whole nine yards.  It was a community event nad everyone always made us feel special.

 

 Q: Your era was before organized youth football leagues, how did you and your teammates learn the game?


A: We played tackle football 24/7 with no pads in all kinds of weather, that’s how we learned the game.  That’s also how we bonded and learned how to protect and defend each other, too.  And freshman year whatever  bad habits we developed were fixed, thankfully, by Coach Byrnes and his staff.  Bless those coaches for their patience and tenacity. 

 

Q: You played guard, linebacker and wrestled all at 145 pounds which, even back then, was undersized.  You were a pretty tough kid, huh? 


A: I actually moved to Westwood from Canada where hockey was the only organized sport I knew.  I loved the physical contact in football and wrestling and the feeling of making good, clean hits on my opponents. And, for the record, I wrestled at 145 lbs. but was closer to 165 lbs. during football.  Sure, I was still undersized for football but I really didn’t care where I played as long as it helped the team.
 

Q: Speaking of multiple sports, a large number of Westwood’s student athletes, male and female, play more than one sport but there’s so much specialization these days – what are your thoughts on this topic?

A:  I believe young men and women should participate in multiple sports.  In addition to football and wrestling, I played baseball and ran track my freshman and sophomore years.  As demand of football and wrestling became greater, I dropped baseball and track.  That dxecision was based on my experience, not because I was told to specialize in this or that.  When I became a teacher and wrestling coach, I encouraged my wrestlers to play another sport as long as they maintained their grades.  Even if an athlete doesn't participate in another organized sport he/she should do something other than their chosen sport.  I have seen many good athletes break down physically because they did not give their body's time to rest or because they limited their workouts to one sport.
 

Q: Finally, how did being a student athlete at Westwood Regional prepare you to ascend to the top of your profession, school Superintendent?

A: Participating in athletics has contributed to my life and career success in so many ways, too numerous to say. Every job I ever had required commitment, hard work, tenacity, physical, mental and emotional toughness, working as a team member, etc.. I truly believe I had an advantage in the classroom and in my work places because I just do not give up. I just will not quit. These are two of the most valuable things playing sports at Westwood instilled in me.  People who know me will tell you that I will bring my “A game” to whatever I do and I expect others to do the same. It’s not that we all have the same abilities and talents. But we all have an obligation to bring our best efforts to the task and contribute to the team. 
 

Thanks for your reflections and thoughts, Mr. Muscatiello and continued good health and enjoyment of life to you in retirement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A: I actually moved to Westwood from Canada where hockey was the only organized sport I knew.  I loved the physical contact in football and wrestling and the feeling of making good, clean hits on my opponents. And, for the record, I wrestled at 145 lbs. but was closer to 165 lbs. during football.  Sure, I was still undersized for football but I really didn’t care where I played as long as it helped the team.