TOMS RIVER - Soccer has been a part of Ed Leibe’s routine for nearly a half-century and for most of those nearly 50 years, playing playing the sport was a part of that routine for an active man with an athletic background.

The first part of his soccer life included starring in high school at Steinert in Hamilton, N.J. and at college at two different Atlantic Coast Conference programs, while the second was as a coach at Toms River High School South for the past 13 seasons. There is plenty of reason to believe that after everything Leibe did during his playing career, he could have spent most of those 13 seasons as the best player on his team, were he allowed to suit up.

Ed Leibe (Courtesy: steinertathletichof.com)

Leibe’s soccer way-of-life, however, met reality last month, when he suffered a heart attack that ultimately forced him to relinquish his head coaching position with the Indians program. Leibe planned on shaking off his scare and coaching his team like he always had, but after a discussion with his family and coaching staff, the 13-year head coach and 51-year-old father of four has turned the program over to his top assistant and former Indians varsity coach Ron Laycock.

"I feel good and I'm expected to make a full recovery," Leibe said. "I was hoping to get back to coaching and that was my plan all along, but with everything that's going on, we thought the best thing for me and my family was to turn the program over to Ronnie and just help out when I can."

Leibe will remain on staff as an assistant and hopes to return to his head coaching post next season. Meanwhile, Laycock takes over for his ninth season as Toms River South head coach after leading the Indians from 1994 to 2001 before Leibe took over in 2002. Laycock was also the coach of Toms River East from 1990 to 1993.

"So far, there hasn't been a big difference," Laycock said. "We're running the same practices and Eddie has been around, so I don't think it feels any different for the kids at this point. They know he's there and we've always split up a lot of the coaching duties so they are hearing the same voices at practice and in the game."

Although Leibe said he has a family history of heart problems, his episode came without any detectable medical warning. He said he felt a pain in his chest at a get-together on Thursday, Aug. 13 and a visit to a specialist revealed no complications. He left Community Medical Center under the impression that, if anything, he was dealing with a possible muscle strain, according to his doctor.

"I had more than one doctor tell me that there isn't a person alive who would have been able to see this coming," Leibe said. "I was there two days earlier and everything checked out. I had an echocardiogram done and nothing showed up."

On the morning of Saturday, Aug. 15, though, Leibe woke up around 2 a.m. drenched in sweat, short of breath and in even more pain than he was two nights earlier.

"My wife turned on the light and said, 'You look horrible.' I told her, 'Yeah, you'd better call for an ambulance.'"

According to Leibe, it took approximately 30 minutes to complete the necessary surgery from the time paramedics loaded him onto the ambulance, where they began preparation for surgery. He had 100 percent blockage of a coronary artery and the swift nature of the surgery prevented any further damage.

"I think we were all shocked," Laycock said. "He is only 51 and he's a young 51. He's active. He takes care of himself. He's a positive, upbeat guy so he never really seems like stress is getting to him. It's just one of those things that came out of nowhere."

Just five months prior to her husband's scare, Leibe's wife delivered the couple's fourth child. With a newborn at home, she asked Leibe to leave the team altogether, while he expected to coach the team as usual while going back to teaching at Toms River South. In the end, the compromise was for Leibe to relinquish his head coaching duties while still helping as an assistant.

"This is his passion," Laycock said. "He got out of the hospital and he was right back at practice to see how the boys were doing. This sport is in his blood, so I'm sure it's tough to just walk away from it without really being mentally ready."

In his 13 years as head coach of the Indians, Leibe went 148-93-11 while leading his team to two Class A South division titles - including one last season - and the only NJSIAA Group IV championship in the history of the program in 2009. He was also a McDonald's, Adidas and NSCAA All-American as a high school player at Steinert before starting two years at North Carolina State and two more at Maryland. During his senior year, the Terrapins finished ranked No. 8 in the nation.

Leibe's oldest son, Giacomo, was a goalkeeper on the 2009 championship team and while he is not committing to coaching long enough to coach the latest addition to his family, Leibe expects his coaching run to continue after taking a full year to rest and recover.

"I expect to be back as the head coach next year," Leibe said. "I'm hoping the boys have a good year with Ronnie and hopefully they'll welcome me when I get back. I might even cut back on the yelling and screaming."