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Family first: Megan Atkinson, John Sis, Ed Dolch each resign coaching positions at South River

(From L to R) Girls soccer coach John Sis, field hockey coach Megan Atkinson and football coach Ed Dolch each stepped down from their positions at South River this week.
(From L to R) Girls soccer coach John Sis, field hockey coach Megan Atkinson and football coach Ed Dolch each stepped down from their positions at South River this week. (Capital Gazette photos)

The fall sports season at South River won’t look the same come August.

Three prominent, longtime coaches have resigned their positions since completing the shortened season late last week. Field hockey coach Megan Atkinson, who spent 18 seasons at the Edgewater school, girls soccer coach John Sis, who recently completed his 15th season as head coach, and seventh-year football coach Ed Dolch have stepped down.

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“Today is a tough day in our athletic program. All three of these coaches have meant so much to our athletic program, combining for over 40 years of experience,” athletic director Dave Klingel wrote in a news release. “The entire South River Athletic Community owes a great amount of thanks to these three individuals for their countless hours of work and sacrifice to make their programs achieve at a high level. We wish them all the best.”

Each coach said the pull to spend more time with family was the reason for leaving.

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Atkinson, who was an assistant 2003-12 before taking the head job in 2013, said, “Unfortunately, for me, there’s not enough time in the day.” She has a 6-year-old and a 16-month-old at home, and while she said she likely could’ve continued coaching, “I don’t think it’d be fair to the program.”

South River field hockey coach Megan Atkinson, pictured during a game against Spalding in 2018, has stepped down.
South River field hockey coach Megan Atkinson, pictured during a game against Spalding in 2018, has stepped down. (By Matthew Cole /)

In her eight seasons as head coach, Atkinson won three consecutive Class 4A state championships from 2016 to 2018 and county titles in 2013 and 2016.

“I don’t think I would be able to do it as well as I have in the past,” Atkinson said, calling from the sideline of her daughter’s soccer practice. “It really came down to the time, and I think the timing of ‘why now?’ I kind of look around at the world and the situation we’re in with COVID.”

Atkinson said several moments stand out — winning state titles in 2004 at age 22 or 23 and again in 2012 in her last season as an assistant — but the 2016 Class 4A state championship takes the cake.

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“That was a wonderful championship for me because we had been out for a while, and that senior class was extremely dedicated to making sure they got back and worked really hard,” Atkinson said. “I’m still close to many of them today; they’re all seniors in college right now.”

The losses, too, especially to Severna Park in the regional finals in recent seasons, also will stick with Atkinson.

“She has been an integral part in the growth, development, and maintained excellence of our field hockey program,” Klingel wrote in a statement. “Winning three consecutive state championships is a feat that has not been achieved in school history. Her coaching style was a perfect fit for our athletes.”

South River girls soccer coach John Sis, pictured in 2017, resigned after a 15-year run.
South River girls soccer coach John Sis, pictured in 2017, resigned after a 15-year run. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Sis won’t be venturing too far away from girls soccer in Anne Arundel County. He plans to spend the fall following the Southern girls soccer team to watch his youngest daughter, who will be a freshman next school year.

“You just don’t know when your kids are going to be done with you and have no use for you anymore,” Sis said, tongue in cheek. “When my daughter said, ‘hey are you going to come?’ I thought that was the perfect cue for me to realize that my daughter wants me to be involved in her life. So, I just think it’s the right time to do that.”

Sis led South River to the 2012 Class 4A state championship, the third in school history, and has fond memories of the team that beat Bethesda-Chevy Chase in a penalty kick shootout. But it was the consistency at which his players performed at such a high level that he will remember most. His teams also won county titles in 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2019.

“Every year that was I was there we had a great amount of quality players, so I really didn’t have to do a lot with them,” he said.

Sis was Klingel’s first hire as athletic director, and the affection was mutual.

“Dave is the reason why I stayed so long,” Sis said.

South River football coach Ed Dolch, pictured talking to a player in a preseason practice in 2019, has stepped down after eight seasons.
South River football coach Ed Dolch, pictured talking to a player in a preseason practice in 2019, has stepped down after eight seasons. (Joshua McKerrow/Capital Gazette)

Like Atkinson, Dolch has a kid at home and his decision to leave had nothing to do with football. His 6-year-old son is becoming more active in sports and extracurricular activities and Dolch had seen too many of his “firsts” on video rather than in-person.

“I think it’s just the right time to step down and devote more time to being a better husband and father,” he said.

Dolch led South River to success it hadn’t seen in decades. In 2018, the Seahawks beat top-seeded Broadneck in the 4A East regional semifinals to win its first playoff game in 32 years.

“No one gave us a chance at winning the game,” he said. “That game definitely sticks out.”

The following year, Dolch and South River went 9-0 in the regular season to win their first county title, one “the community will never forget,” Klingel wrote.

But the coach felt the yearning at home, especially when the pandemic forced him to spend quality time with his young family.

“The extra time to spend with family really opened my eyes to how much I’ve been missing, and you really don’t think about that when you’re caught up in coaching,” Dolch said.

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