Smithfied athletics legend Tony Torregrossa is the type of guy that tells it like it is. No bells and whistles. Just the simple truths embedded on the fields of play and throughout the stages of life.
Torregrossa, who once served as Smithfield High’s athletic director, is currently the school’s wrestling coach and still assists as a supervisor for various sporting events. Tony also helps coach the Unified Basketball team.
His genuine love of sports and commitment to the community are as telling as his modest yet direct demeanor. He’s a guy that’s been in the thick of athletics for more than half a century, and this year he adds another accolade to his inspiring career as a member of the RIIL 2017 Hall of Fame class.
“His legacy will be in the relationships he has cultivated over the last fifty years,” said Torregrossa’s colleague and friend, Dan Kelley. Kelley is the current National Association of Secondary School Principals President and SHS Principal.
“Tony bleeds green and gold,” Kelley said. “He has been a strong advocate for Smithfield athletics and for the athletes that have gone through our program.”
Highly visible and quick to offer a helping hand, Torregrossa does not believe he has single-handedly done anything in life. The team mentality he has instilled in so many players is a real world concept that has played out in his personal and professional endeavors.
“Kids, parents and coaches are constantly talking about what ‘I’ have done,” Torregrossa said. “No one does it alone. Even in individual sports.”
Guided by the straightforward advice his father offered him at the age of twelve, Torregrossa takes pride in making sure everyone in his program feels important. Everyone has a role in making a team successful, and individual laurels most always trace back to the team.
“If you are going to do something, do it right or don’t do it at all.” Torregrossa said.
Torregrossa has done right by many, including Kelley. The pair worked alongside one another for eleven years. Kelley’s family has known and worked with Torregrossa for over thirty years.
“We have become close friends,” Kelley said. “He keeps me grounded with his sense of humor and his stories. Most importantly, he provides much history about the athletic program and the school system. That history has helped me tremendously.”
“Everyday. Treat coaches, teammates, opponents, officials and yourself with respect at all times. Take pride in what you do and who you are”
Torregrossa has forged his own place in the Smithfield history books as a necessary constant embracing cultural and societal changes that come with a long timeline of work. High school athletics have evolved since Torregrossa was a student-athlete at Mount Pleasant High School.
“What has stayed the same is the dedication of coaches to their athletes and the work ethic the sport teaches,” Torregrossa said.
New coaching techniques have been adopted. Concussions are a daily discussion. Student-athletes are committing to one sport year-round and sharing every move on social media.
While change is inevitable, the values of what it’s all about are still rooted in something good.
“I think Tony has done a nice job of adapting as society and cultures have shifted,” Kelley said. “He still has an old school mentality and work ethic, but recognizes that today’s student-athlete has much more going on.”
Over the course of the past ten years, the Smithfield Sentinels have gone from being a Division II/Division III school to having 75% of their programs in Division I competition.
The Sentinels aren’t just about building a successful athletic program. They are about being good sports now, growing toward something better and respecting what came before. They are about using athletics as a platform to become better people.
“Teaching the things that make someone successful in life,” Torregrossa said. That’s what they are all about.
That’s what Tony Torregrossa is all about, too, and his programs are a prime example.
“You come to practice on time and ready to work,” he said. “Everyday. Treat coaches, teammates, opponents, officials and yourself with respect at all times. Take pride in what you do and who you are.”
Torregrossa did something with his career, and he did it right.
Tony Torregrossa will be inducted into the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s High School Athletic Hall of Fame on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at 7p.m. at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick.