Signals, Both Near & Far

Signals Near & Far

It’s been quite a week here in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. While July has provided all one would expect of the peak of summer, I had a few unexpected arrivals this week. One, a text message from the parent of a new player, and the other, an email from a returning veteran.

As I contemplate this week’s blog, I was a little hesitant to post it as one could possibly read it as me congratulating myself… Please know that is the farthest thing from my intent. As I have repeatedly presented in many of the nearly 200 posts over the last few years, I try to share successes and challenges as exactly that: an opportunity to share with others, as so many coaches have shared with me. Further, I think it is important to reinforce themes of culture, values, and vision to present what’s possible AND achievable! Teachers, coaches, parents, mentors, managers, and others have the opportunity to apply the same tenants, processes, and procedures to build cohesive teams and achieve more than they thought possible.

So with that preamble out of the way the first of two “signals” indicating the culture, character, values, and vision are taking hold.

I received the following from the parent of a player who is new to both the team and school this summer.

One day last week after a practice ending with a long hot run down by the baseball field, Josh came back to the truck completely soaked with sweat on what had been a very humid day. I expected him to say something about the heat or being exhausted or something along those lines, but the exact first words out of his mouth were exactly this.

“I love everything about this place… I love my coaches, my teammates, the campus… I love it all. I’m so glad we made it here. I finally have a place where I can really be an accepted part of the team… I finally have a place to call home.”

All the way home I fought back tears thinking how grateful I was for his happiness and how blessed he felt to be welcomed into the Hilltopper family. All the culture you have built and established over the years is now something Josh gets to share in and he is extremely grateful (as am I). I am glad he is working hard for you thus far. His love of the game has been rekindled and that feeds his desire to work. Thank you for welcoming us with open arms. 

The second note came quite literally from across the world… We have a returning Hilltopper who had spent much of 2020 and all of 2021 at home with his parents in China. Although he was looking forward to returning, he was writing to relay his disappointment that continuing COVID protocols were delaying his return and he was concerned about missing camp and letting his teammates down.” Further, he went on to relay the work he had been doing in the meantime to stay both strong and fit, as well as describing how he had been playing with a local team in his hometown. (The pictures he sent sure looked a lot like American Football!) I let him know how much I appreciated his concern for the team and reassured him both the staff and his teammates understand the challenges he’s facing, and know he’s working as hard as possible to be able to contribute once circumstances permit. During the email exchange, I asked where he was thinking about playing this year, and his response was the second signal in as many weeks that we are reinforcing the culture and character that will enable success on the playing field, and far beyond the confines of the season or even the high school experience:

“At last spring’s practices I played Tight End, and I think I am good at catching and running with the ball; however, I am familiar with offensive lineman (OL) drills and plays so OL will work for me as well! The interests of our football team is the most important, so if we have enough tight ends or we need experienced lineman I will be honored and happy to be OL for my senior year.”

From literally thousands of miles away came a message of selflessness, commitment, and a desire and willingness to put the good of the team above his own personal interests. Key to our culture is “pride in belonging,” and a “team first” mentality. I hope your team is sending similar signals and the investments you are making in the betterment of others results in teamwork, cohesion, and ultimately success both on and off the field.

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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