Jupiter head football coach says farewell

After an incredible 36 years of coaching and teaching, Jupiter High’s head football coach Timothy Tharp will retire at the end of this school year. In his nearly four decades in education, Tharp impacted so many lives, from athletes to colleagues to students in general.

Tharp was hired five years ago to take over the JHS football team. He was also assigned a TOSA position, or teacher on special assignment, where he oversaw a portion of the academic and social success of students. He then became the school’s graduation coach, where he dedicated his time to making sure seniors earned their diplomas.

Although he was excited about the idea of retiring, according to Tharp, it was a bittersweet decision.

“I think a lot goes into considering retirement,” Tharp said. “My wife and I obviously spent a lot of time discussing, analyzing and praying … and putting the pencil to the financial side.We made the old pros and cons list.”

According to the athletes and students he mentors and coaches, Tharp is a leader like no other. 

“Coach Tharp is one of the best coaches I have ever had,” Nick Grieco, former JHS football player, said. “He always puts the team first, and he made us be the best version of ourselves…He brought us together as a team and made us believe in each other.”

Current and past players noted how Tharp not only coached them to be better on the field but also in life in general. 

“Coach Tharp’s impact on me made me a better person and have a more positive outlook on difficult situations,” Grieco said. “He helped guide me through a difficult time in my life. I could not thank coach Tharp enough for everything he has done for me and Jupiter High School.” 

Before joining the Warrior family, Tharp was the athletic director at both Vero Beach High School and South Fork High School. From those experiences, he was able to pass on his wisdom and knowledge to the current JHS athletic director, Kim Jalm. 

“Before I became the athletic director, I had only heard great things about Coach Tharp,” Jalm said. “In 2019, when I took over the AD position, he was the first person I met with on campus, which said a lot about his character. We had a great conversation in his office, and he offered a lot of advice, since he had previously served as an athletic director prior to coming to Jupiter.”

Jalm credited Tharp with helping her successfully manage a massive athletic program in her first year as athletic director.

“Many of the things you see implemented at Jupiter High have come from multiple conversations in that office [with Tharp], and he is one of the people that I go to to seek advice,” Jalm said. 

Jupiter High’s football program had its ups and downs before Tharp took over, but with him at the helm, the team turned around a losing record to often compete in the postseason. 

“He was definitely the hero of their football program,” Dr. Colleen Iannitti, Jupiter High’s principal, said. “When he applied for the coaching job, I was very excited because I knew what he had accomplished at Gardens.” 

Upon being hired, Tharp immediately sparked a change within the football program, placing it back on the map.

“Prior to his arrival at JHS, the football team had lost 27 out of its last 28 games,” David Runner, assistant football coach, said. “The program was in disarray, and with the support of the principal, Dr. Iannitti, coach Tharp and his staff have made the program relevant again.” 

In Tharp’s five years of coaching at JHS, he has brought a great deal of success not only to the football program but also to the school’s environment as a whole.

I knew there would come a day when he would retire,” Kevin Fleury, assistant football coach, said. “Personally, I feel it is the end of an era…He has brought Jupiter football back to respectability.'”

With Tharp’s guidance, many of his players have gone on to pursue athletic and career success. He was always eager to promote his athletes to leadership positions to help them with their future.

“One of my best experiences was getting to work alongside coach Tharp,” Grieco said. “I was very fortunate to be able to help coach my senior year due to my injury. I learned so much and fell in love with coaching. It made my senior year even more special because I found my future passion. If it wasn’t for Coach Tharp, I still might not know what I want to do. I can only hope I have the impact on my players as he did on me and the rest of us.”

According to Tharp, there are important life lessons within the game of football, and his players embraced these lessons to be better both on and off the field.

“When the smoke clears, win, lose, tie or draw, you need to be able to say you left it all out on the field,” Billy Bates, senior football player, said. “Unfortunately my time playing was cut short, but it’s because of coach Tharp that when I look back there’s not a moment I wasn’t giving it my all. That’s the important part about football, and that’s what coach Tharp taught me.” 

Cristian Orth, a former teammate of Bates, agrees about the impact Tharp has had on their lives.

“Coach Tharp is by far the most impactful coach I’ve had in my life. He was able to instill important values in my life: selflessness, leadership and how to look at life from a perspective other than football. He served as an important father figure in my life over the course of my four years,” Orth said.

Although they are grateful for all their coach taught them and for their success, his current and former players are sad to see Tharp leave the program he helped turn around.

“I’m sad to see him leave. He’s a great coach, and he’s built something special at Jupiter. He’s really changed the culture and what it means to be a Warrior and everyone who comes to the games or has played for him over the years can see that. Even though he’s retiring, I know he’ll never retire from mentoring, teaching and influencing young men like me and many others to be the best person and player you can be through hard work,” Mark Balbis, former Jupiter High football player, said.

Balbis has continued a successful career since leaving Jupiter High in 2020, and he believes he owes many of his successes to Tharp. His assistant coaches also credit Tharp for their success.

“Coach Tharp has been a tremendous role model to me,” Matthew Csoka, assistant football coach, said. “I don’t think that what he has built at Jupiter can be duplicated. I think if you ask any of our kids, they will tell you they would run through a brick wall for him.” 

Rob Freeman, who also coaches alongside Tharp, agrees.

“Coach Tharp is not done making an impact on this earth,” Freeman said. “I can assure you that whatever he devotes himself to will benefit from his involvement.”

When asked what he will miss most about coaching when he retires, Tharp said he will miss the bonds he has created both with players and colleagues. 

“What you miss the most is the interaction with the players and the relationships that are built, as well as those with the coaches,” Tharp said.