Marlon LeBlanc had a multi-year offer to continue coaching at West Virginia University on the table but the long-time head coach chose instead to walk away so he could be closer to his family in Philadelphia.
“At the end of the day I made a choice for my family,” LeBlanc said about his decision to step down. “You only get your kids for so long — my son is 11, my daughter’s 14 — and as a collegiate soccer coach I feel like I’ve missed so much of their prior years already.”
LeBlanc’s wife, son and daughter relocated to the area in August so Kellan LeBlanc could fully commit to the Philadelphia Union Academy. The young prospect had spent time commuting back and forth weekly with his mom during the 2018-19 season and prior to that was part of the Columbus Crew Academy in Ohio.
Though still only 11, Kellan has been playing up with the Union U13 team this season. He made 11 appearances in the first half of the season and was part of the Union U12 team that captured the U12 Generation adidas Cup in Atlanta over Thanksgiving weekend.
LeBlanc has been able to follow his son’s exploits via online video and has stayed in touch with his family through FaceTime but as the Mountaineers season was winding down — they made a surprising run to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after winning their conference tournament — the arrangement started to weigh even heavier on his heart.
“I’m lucky that the Union pretty much tapes almost everything they do so I’ve gotten to see quite a bit on film,” LeBlanc said. “But when all your conversations about the game and about school are on FaceTime it gets old really, really quick.”
LeBlanc remembers at one point during the season when he was in Saint Louis with his team and was talking to his wife and son, who was in North Carolina for a Development Academy event and his daughter in Collegeville.
“I was like ‘what in the world are we doing?” he said.
A Mercer County, N.J. native, LeBlanc played soccer at Penn State and went on to serve as an assistant for six seasons before getting the job at West Virginia. Over 14 seasons at the helm, he compiled a record of 138-100-34.
As West Virginia University Director of Athletics and Associate Vice President Shane Lyons put it in a statement announcing his resignation, LeBlanc “took over a team when it was going through some tough times and guided it back to being a competitive program that performed well in the classroom and the community.”
Prior to his son joining the academy, LeBlanc was already well connected to the Union through his former players Ray Gaddis and Jack Elliott, who were both drafted by the Union out of college and returning to the team next season.
“Obviously I have kept in contact with those guys and there’s a long standing relationship,” LeBlanc said. “With (Jack and Ray) I felt like I played my role and then gave them off to the Union. Now with my son I’m 100 percent vested in what’s happening in the (academy) process.”
LeBlanc said he’s already gotten phone calls about coaching opportunities in the Philadelphia area but said he isn’t in a hurry to move on to the next gig.
“I’m not going to take something for the sake of taking something,” he said. “I want to do something that I really believe in.”