PALMETTO -- One of the area's most successful athletic programs has lost its head coach.
Dustin Dahlquist is no longer Palmetto's boys soccer coach, ending a tenure that lasted 12 seasons and two separate stints.
Dahlquist is Palmetto High School's assistant principal. The School District of Manatee County's policy states administrators are not permitted to serve as head coaches.
"I chose to remain an administrator and assistant principal at Palmetto High School," Dahlquist said.
Dahlquist was named assistant principal in the summer of 2007, ending his time as the school's athletic director. Feeling he wouldn't have enough time to give to his players, Dahlquist also resigned as the boys soccer coach. He stopped coaching boys tennis and assisting with the football team, too.
But he returned to soccer in 2008, leading Palmetto to six straight district championships and three appearances in the state final four. Dahlquist's 2008-09 and 09-10 teams were the first soccer teams in county history to make consecutive trips to the state semifinals.
"I had it as good as I could have it without finishing with a state championship," said Dahlquist, who won 216 games at Palmetto. "But it wasn't just about the wins. It was about working with the boys at Palmetto High and having them focus on character building and being better students.
"They cared about each other and about the school. It was their hard work and their buying into the system. ... They treated themselves as each person was a member of their family. And whenever they went out there and played, it was as if they were fighting for their family."
Palmetto qualified for the region tournament in 12 of the past 13 seasons under Dahlquist. But the coach pinned all the credit on his players.
"They have done more for me than I ever could have done for them," he said. "Seventy-five percent of the time, we walked off the pitch with one point (for a tie) or three points (for a win). You have to have special players to be able to do that. ... I've been blessed."
Dahlquist thanked his assistants, Mike Meehan and Matt Foy, as well as the principals and athletic directors he worked under while at Palmetto. He thanked the community, too.
"The teachers, the Palmetto community has embraced and supported our program and made it a wonderful experience," he said. "I can't ask for more. ... When I took over the program, I wanted to leave it in better shape than when I got here in 2000. I think I did that."
Dahlquist is the most recent public school administrator who chose to stop coaching because of the school district's policy. Southeast wrestling coach Daniel Bradshaw, Braden River boys basketball coach Matt Nesser and Lakewood Ranch football coach Shawn Trent all resigned to become athletic directors.
"The policy has been in place for years," said district spokesman Stephen Valley. "It was just scarcely implemented."
Athletic director Kenny Ansbro is trying to find a replacement for Dahlquist. He is looking at in-house candidates but plans to consult with Dahlquist.
"He built a phenomenal program here," Ansbro said. "I'm sure he wants to leave it in good hands. ... Whoever takes over has to be a special person."