Bard College men’s soccer coach TJ Kostecky and long-time soccer coach Len Bilous have been elected to the Ukrainian Sports Hall of Fame.
Koestecky is the former men’s coach at Long Island University – Brooklyn. Bilous has coached at several levels, including the Major Indoor Soccer League.
Bilous, who played for Temple University, coached the Quinnipiac men’s team, and the Cincinnati Kids , Pittsburgh Spirit and Philadelphia Fever in the Major Indoor Soccer League.
The fall 2020 season would have been just Kostecky’s second season at Bard as he been coaching collegiately for more than 30 years. He coached for 20 years at LIU before the school sold the field and merged the team with Division II LIU Post at the end of the 2018 season. He was the Northeast Conference coach of the year in 2015 and 2018, and led the Blackbirds to three NCAA Tournament appearances.
“It’s an incredible honor,” Kostecky said. “Immediately I thought of my grandfather, Dr. Jacob Kostecky, and my dad, Antonin. They never really understood the sports part of my life but nevertheless supported me. They’d be overflowing with pride.”
The Ukrainian Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is located in North Wales, Pa.
Kostecky was taken aback by the honor.
“Naturally, I was delighted and astonished,” he said. “The Ukrainian Sports Hall of Fame is filled with an amazing array of famous sports greats such as Wayne Gretzky, Mike Ditka, the Klitschko boxing world champions, and Sergey Bubka, the first pole vaulter to clear 20 feet. I remember watching him win the gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
“I’m neither famous nor great. Being included in this group is exceedingly humbling.”
Former Major League Baseball star Paul Konerko also is in the 2020 class, as well as Bilous, a former soccer player and coach who was the MISL coach of the year for the 1979-80 season. Kostecky said Bilous was one of the greatest influences on his career.
“There are so many mentors who have shaped my journey,” Kostecky said. “Two of the most significant were Bob Knowles and Len Bilous. When I was only 20 years old, Bob took a chance and hired me as his assistant varsity high school soccer coach. He was a football guy with absolutely no soccer coaching experience.
“But Bob taught me the importance of integrity, how to properly plan, to see potential in others, and to have confidence and believe in yourself, especially when things are not going as you had imagined,” Kostecky continued. “He was my first and most important mentor who set me on the right path.”
Kostecky and Bilous are business partners in Vision Training Soccer.
“Len taught me the importance of innovation,” Kostecky said. “Not just to ‘think outside the box’ but to create your own box.’ He is the originator of VTS. For the past 35-plus years we’ve conducted courses worldwide coaches, players and parents on this transformational method. In 2014, I had the honor and privilege of conducting the first VTS coaching course in Kiev.”
With only one season under his belt so far at Bard, there are many memories to be made. As of today, his top coaching memory is from 2018.
“The freshest moment occurred on the afternoon of November 11, 2018, the Northeast Conference men’s soccer championship game,” he said. “It was to be the final game played on this iconic field that had hosted games since 1933, before it would be demolished and replaced by a high-rise building. Upon the final whistle, I remember embracing my assistant coaches and watching as the fans stormed the field in absolute delight, shouting and jumping with joy. I looked up and the scoreboard flashed 4-0 for the good guys.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the induction ceremonies will be held later in 2021.