Newton North volleyball coach Richard Barton retires

Longtime Newton North boys and girls volleyball coach Richard Barton is hanging up his whistle with the Tigers.

After over 30 years in the position, Barton stepped down from his duties last week to retire in good health, ending an era that included three state titles with the girls and a long string of contention with the boys as the program’s only coach since it formed.

Barton insists the decision was far from easy, but feels the programs are in good positions and he leaves as merely a passing of the torch after a long tenure.

Newton North has not announced a replacement yet.

“It‘s really hard. It’s really hard but it’s really clear it’s the thing to do,” Barton said. “It’s just the time, and I’m leaving a strong group of returning players and a fairly solid schedule of matches and weekend tournaments, and hoping things just work out. … I didn’t get tired of coaching, I like the players there. And I don’t want any players or families thinking anything except that.”

Barton took over as the Tigers’ girls coach in the mid-80’s, and took over the boys a couple years later too when the program started. And as one of the more well-respected coaches in the volleyball community, he helped Newton North maintain status as a legitimate threat on an annual basis by making noise in both the fall and spring.

That reached a pinnacle in recent years, with the girls repeating as Div. 1 state champions in 2017 and 2018, as well as winning in 2014 after years of coming close. The boys never won a state title, but went on to win the Div. 1 South title in 2019 before falling to Westfield in a state semifinal that year.

As a collection of deep runs filled in along the way, Barton also co-founded and is a director for Smash Volleyball – one of the more successful club organizations in the northeast. Two players on the Tigers’ boys team, Kaz Veitas and Connor MacIntosh, just won a national championship with the SMASH 17U team earlier this month in Kansas City. That doesn’t even mention the countless other talent that circles through the organization from most of the other top teams across the state, including quite a few players from reigning state champion Needham.

He’ll take over one of the teams within Smash within the next week, as he isn’t completely retiring from coaching altogether. But even with that in mind, it was still difficult to move on.

“It’s really hard because the core of last year’s teams are still there,” he said. “I know them and they know me. … The players are great.”

Coaches in the state talk highly of Barton, including Bay State Conference boys foe Dave Powell (Needham) and Newton South’s Lucas Coffeen – who is Barton’s son-in-law. From the state championships, to the competitive runs through the section for the boys and girls, to even facing off with Coffeen in boys volleyball, Barton certainly racked up the memories over three decades with the Tigers.

Every tenure has an expiration date, though, and Barton knew his had come. That regime certainly won’t be forgotten by him or the volleyball community

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