Larry Luthe is a longtime Eldersburg resident, and he’s in his seventh season as varsity football coach at Liberty High School. He took over the program in 2013. After the Lions went 2-8 in his first year, things turned around quickly. Liberty won eight games the following season, highlighted by the first playoff victory in program history, and is 47-16 since that first year, including an unbeaten regular season in 2018.
Luthe is a native of Camden, New Jersey who moved to Maryland when he was 12. He spent 10 seasons coaching at Mount Hebron, his alma mater, and still teaches at the Howard County high school. The Times caught up with Luthe before Friday’s game against Westminster to talk about his football background and how he has seen his sport grow over the decades.
Q: What are some of the most rewarding things about coaching football?
A: Coaching and teaching are both rewarding in the same way. Watching kids grow, figure things out, and get rewarded for hard work is the reason people choose the profession. The difference with coaching, your test happens out on the field in a very public setting. Watching young people grow into young adults and know that their time with you has been part of their process. Having players come back to you and tell you that you have impacted their lives, and helped them become the person they are today is special.
I try to coach players the way I wanted to be coached, and the way I wanted my children to be coached. Athletics is a place to learn and grow, winning is about the process. We try to teach kids to enjoy the hard work, be part of something bigger than yourselves, and realize that you have to be ready when your opportunity comes. Watching kids seize their opportunity, and hoping that translate that later in their life is awesome!
Q: Can you remember the moment you knew you wanted to be a coach?
A: I was an engineering major at Widener [University] and I left school after my junior year (it may or may not have been my choice!). That summer I was working at Merriweather [Post Pavilion], and Joe Russo, the head coach at Hammond High School, asked me if I would be interested in coaching at Hammond. I had a great experience, and decided to become a math teacher. It has been a great career choice for me. I had an opportunity to work with and learn from many wonderful administrators, teachers and coaches. All of these people and experiences helped me become the person I am today.
Q: How has coaching changed over the last decade or so, in your eyes?
A: A couple of big things really stand out. First, specialization in specific sports has changed. We do not have nearly the number of two- or three-sport athletes that we have had in the past. This is disappointing to me. For 97%, high school is the last time we get to play organized sports. Everyone is so worried about the scholarship, or playing at this school. I wish kids would enjoy themselves where they are, and not be so worried about the “next” step. With social media, everyone is so caught up in stats, recruiting stars, and doing what, they are not enjoying the moment they are in.
The other big change is the involvement of the parents. Athletics should be a supplement to the education experience. Parents are putting pressure on your child to be the best on the team, or get a scholarship, instead of just let them enjoy, learn, and grow from being part of a team. Being part of team is a valuable experience in itself. Both of my own kids were role players on different high school teams they played on, and they both learned valuable lessons being role players. At some point, we have to serve others around us, we can’t always be the “star.”
Q: What was it like coaching your sons, Corey and Ryan, on the football team?
Having them both on the team for our first county championship was very special. I spent the first 26 years of my career, I coached other people’s kids. To coach my own was awesome. They know I think football is the greatest game in the world, and I got to experience high school football with my sons. I know my assistant coaches have had a positive influence on my two kids, and I know they have had a great impact on all the kids in our program. I got a chance to spend time with my kids every day doing something we all loved. Corey has continue playing football in college. Ryan decided that he was done after high school.
I am happy they each made their own decision, and I am proud of the young men they are.
Q: In your seven seasons as Liberty, what are your most memorable moments?
A: I probably don’t do a great job with memories. I tend to always look forward. I am proud of the success of our program, the number of kids playing in college, and the number of former players that come back to Liberty and support the football team. Winning our first playoff game, winning the county championship, and going undefeated are all memorable moments, but it is not about the moments, it’s about the day-to-day interactions with the players and staff to get to those moments. I feel so comfortable on the football field with our players and staff. It really is a blessing.
Q: With all of the recent success, how competitive is Liberty’s athletic program among its teams?
A: I think it is great when all of our teams do well. I am excited for the season the boys and girls soccer teams have had. The field hockey and cross country teams have won multiple state championships, and volleyball is very competitive. When every team does well, excellence becomes an expectation. Our coaching staffs encourage our athletes to play multiple sports, and we support and celebrate each other’s success. [Athletic director Ed] DeVincent has done a great job of encouraging our athletes to participate in more than one sport. Both of my sons played for other coaches at Liberty High School, and they are both better men because of it.