Battling Back

2019-04-25 compass

This past weekend we returned to the field where our season ended last year in the state semi-finals, competing against the team that stopped us from repeating as Vermont Division I state champions.

Despite a great week of practice following our home-opening week 1 win, we found ourselves going into the locker room at halftime down by 14 points… a circumstance few veteran players and no rookies had ever encountered.

After more than 30 years of coaching, and 40 years of experience (counting playing the game), I knew what we had to do, and knew our young men were capable.

I also knew THEY needed to know/believe they were capable more than I did. While our staff was confident in the quality of our adjustments, the game hinged on our team’s ability to execute; building both momentum and confidence.

And execute they did…

Though down by two touchdowns late in the game, our players did not quit. We tied the game in the 4th quarter only to fumble and lose the ball inside our own 20 on our next possession… But despite what appeared to be a reverse in momentum and return to the adversity of the first half, our defense held them to a field goal.  On our next possession, our offense marched 80 yards down the field for the game-winning score with little time left on the clock.

That type of win will serve our players well as we navigate the remainder of a challenging schedule; but more importantly, lessons like this pour one more drop into the reservoir of experience they can draw upon when facing adversity later in their lives. Athletics in general, and team sports in particular help inoculate us from setbacks, help us confront our fears, and builds self-confidence in circumstances that might otherwise erode our belief in who we are and what we are capable of.

Shepherding our student-athletes through these experiences is one of the greatest privileges (and most important responsibilities) we as coaches strive to achieve. As we build teams, cultivate culture, and develop student-athletes’ character, we do so with an eye for their future. They will undoubtedly encounter adversity, difficulty, and tragedy over the course of their lives and if an experience like the Hilltoppers battling back last week furthers that goal even a little, it will all have been well worth the effort.

One final note as I write this week’s blog, a close friend, former football player/coach and decorated American Veteran is drawing on his football and life experiences to battle back from a heart attack, surgeries, and a week of intensive care…  Tough times don’t last but tough people do. Please say a prayer for his recovery as he applies the lessons he’s learned and battles back yet again.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss coaching philosophy, X’s & O’s, or teach his O-Line “techniques in the trenches.” Contact Coach at and share with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!

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