Iconic FRHS Coach Dies
Legendary Far Rockaway High School football and baseball coach Jack Kerchman, who mentored thousands of Rockaway youth during his 35 years at the school, died in North Miami, Florida on June 20 after a long battle with serious illness.
Generations of Far Rockaway High School students will remember Kerchman as the tough coach who demanded perfection from his players and often got what he demanded.
His daughter Karen, who is also a Far Rockaway High School graduate, told The Wave this week that her father loved Rockaway and loved coaching.
"He was dedicated to the school and to his players," she said. "The proof of that is the fact that many of them still kept in touch with him after fifty or sixty years."
Wave Managing Editor Howard Schwach remembers his first encounter with Kerchman nearly 55 years ago.
"I was trying out for the baseball team and we were all told to go into the gym," Schwach says today. "Kerchman was standing there with a bat and a bucket of baseballs. He had you go onto the basketball court and he would hit hard grounders to those trying out. If you missed, the balls came off the back wall and hit you in the head. It seemed crazy at the time, but somehow, it worked."
Richie Mann, who played baseball for Kerchman ten years later, said that the coach wanted him for the football team.
"He told me I couldn't play baseball unless I played football," Mann remembers. "He came into my class and pushed a football helmet on my head. He dragged me to the field and had the quarterback throw passes to me. I didn't want to play football, so I dropped all of the passes. It was quite a time."
Kerchman won two city championships with his football team and several more with his baseball teams.
He came to Far Rockaway High School in 1948, fresh out of the Army Air Corps and the China-Burma-India (CBI) Theater of Operations in World War II.
He had a degree in physical education from Syracuse University and a master's degree in education from Columbia University. For a time, he also served as a guidance counselor at Junior High School 198 while he continued to coach at the nearby high school.
He retired from teaching and coaching in March of 1984.
"He had a positive influence on countless numbers of former students and ballplayers," his daughter said. "He will be sorely missed by his former players."