The Most Extraordinary Class in 125 Years…

 

2020-05-28 Hilltopper Seniors

Monday, June 1 is graduation day for the most successful group of seniors in the 125-year history of St Johnsbury Academy Hilltopper Football.

  • 4 State Semifinal appearances
  • 3 State Championship appearances
  • 1 State Championship
  • 36 Wins
  • 20-2 Home Record
  • 6-0 Home Playoff Record
  • 4-0 in The Game (vs Lyndon Institute)

We honor our seniors and all they accomplished during their four years together.  They worked hard, they played smart and they were tough.  We wish them the same success on the paths they take into the next chapter of their lives and trust the lessons they learned and the friendships they forged will last a lifetime.

It’s easy to look at the list above and think someone laid a golden path to such success and these young men had string after string of extraordinary victories. Succeed they did, and repeatedly win indeed, but at the same time, they encountered individual and collective challenges, adversity, and difficulties that sometimes caused them to lean on each other when doubts crept in. It’s the sum of those experiences spanning a full spectrum of emotions that makes them so special.

In Shakespeare’s Henry V, young Harry the King rallies his troops before the battle of Agincourt noting all who stand with him against such mighty odds will forever be remembered.

“…We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother;

The Brits went on to win at Agincourt that day and have been remembered for centuries. While these young men may not be immortalized by Shakespeare, they share a bond common amongst those special teams whose exploits are recalled year after year when special events, anniversaries, and feasts are remembered.

Class of 2020, Hilltopper Teammates, you have stood the test, run the race, and fought the good fight. You have earned your accolades and success. You will always be “Brothers!”

Letter to the Editor

I was truly grateful when last week’s blog “Hope For The Best and Plan For The Worst,” was republished by The Caledonian-Record, a local newspaper here in the Northeast Kingdom of New England. Yesterday, I was even more so when I saw Lucy Hayworth’s Letter to the Editor discussing my post. I started this blog with the intent of sharing thoughts and ideas with other coaches, players, and the broader community who have so frequently shared so much with me. I’m truly grateful this experiment in thinking out loud continues to help others and does so at times, places, and in ways I wouldn’t have thought of nearly four years ago at its inception.

Thank you, Ms. Hayworth, and thanks to the Caledonian Record for sharing last week’s blog and the permission to reprint her letter to the editor.

Coach Alercio’s Wisdom – Lucy Haworth

May 18, 2020

Coach Alercio’s Wisdom

To the Editor:

I would have missed the copy of Coach Rich Alercio’s post, Hope for Best and Plan for Worst (CR May 15) if it had not been staring me in the face this morning two days later, Sports Section B saved so I could do the Rumble and Sudoku puzzles. Amid the coronavirus pandemic,the title caught my attention. Ordinarily I probably would not have read a piece about coaching high school football.

Several years ago, I told my son I thought watching football was stupid: a bunch of men lined up bumping into each other, falling down in a pile, and then doing the same thing again. He acknowledged it could look like that. The only excitement came when a player caught a long pass, the fans went crazy; but no, the officials called “pass interference.” I thought that was the point! Since then, I have asked questions, learned more about the game and watch with appreciation. My children and their families are all Patriots’ fans. They now live in Charlotte, NC and Austin, TX. Our time together is limited. Watching the Patriots with them has become precious. Quarantined, I feel the loss.

Coach Alercio’s article is so much more than his ideas about what the upcoming Academy’s football season may look like. His hopes and alternate plans are clearly stated. But it is his outlook that offers all of us something worth thinking about during these difficult times. It challenges us to find reasons to work harder, seize opportunities to learn more about each other and ourselves, stay optimistic, “say a prayer for those whose list of ‘worsts’ include the real tragedies so many encounter.”

Coach Alercio also reminds us to be grateful. I thank The Caledonian-Record staff person responsible for printing Coach Alercio’s post. I thank the Academy for hiring such an outstanding person. Most of all, I am thankful for Mr. Alercio’s wisdom that I happened upon, merely, or maybe not, quite by chance. His example inspires me to be and do better.

Gratefully,

Lucy Haworth

St. Johnsbury, Vt.

Thank you Ms. Hayworth, and thanks again to the Caledonian Record. I’m so thankful for such a response, and even more so for the opportunity to help the students, faculty, and our local community hope for the best in each other, and all we can accomplish together.

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  richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!

Hope for the Best and Plan for the Worst

A day does not go by that someone does not ask my thoughts on what the football season will look like this year.  I do not know.  Nobody (not even the experts) know.

I hope that we can start our summer Organized 2020-05-14 Hope finds a wayTeam Activities (OTAs) on Monday, June 8th, but I am going to plan for our players to perform their workouts off-campus and on their own.

I hope to host our Youth Football Camp the week of June 22 but will plan to have it in late July to buy more time for restrictions to be lifted.

I hope that we can have our team Mini Camp the week of July 20 but will have a plan to install our offense and defense with Zoom meetings.

I hope that the Vermont Shrine Team can report for camp the last week of July and play the game versus New Hampshire on August 1 but I will plan to have our offense and defense installed in fewer practices than we are scheduled for in case we are not allowed to dorm together for the week.

I hope to have our team report to Training Camp on August 10 and play our home opener on the 29th but will plan to continue workouts and installations virtually until the time we are allowed to come together as a team.

My friends who are Marines tell me “hope is not a course of action, and serendipity is not strategy…” Yet they are still some of the most optimistic people I know. Even in the most challenging of circumstances, they find silver linings, reasons to work harder, and opportunities to learn new lessons.

These are uncertain times indeed, and we will most certainly work hard, find good, and learn about our teammates and ourselves. We’ll stay optimistic, hope for the best, plan for the worst, and be grateful for the opportunities we’re given.  Looking back at the list of “worsts” listed above, I can’t help but think if every last one of those “worsts” were to come true, we’d still be OK… and as a staff, we’d still focus on developing our players, our team, and our culture.

We’ll grow stronger through the adversity we encounter, set a good example for our student-athletes, and say a prayer for those whose list of “worsts” include the real tragedies so many encounter.  The Hilltoppers will be just fine… and we stand ready together; come what may.

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  richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!

National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame Award

It is with great pride as a coach and father that 2020-05-07 National Football Association AwardI announce my son, and Hilltopper student-athlete, Trey Alercio, has been elected into the Vermont Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame for his outstanding contributions both in the classroom and on the playing field during his career at St Johnsbury Academy.

Each year, the National Football Foundation selects six Vermont high school scholar-athletes to be honored along with the “Most Courageous Athlete,” and the “Community Service Award” winner.  In the past four years, six Hilltoppers have been honored.  Trey joins Collin Urie (2016), Jasper Rankin (2017), and Renwick Smith (2018) as scholar-athletes inducted.  He also joins his brother Shane, “Most Courageous Athlete Award” recipient (2017) and Jake Cady, “Community Service Award” recipient (2018).

I’ve mentioned before a coaches’ impact reaches far beyond a few years and sports seasons in high school. Our goal is to take “me oriented” individuals and help build “we oriented” teammates. If things go well, we win a few games together along the way, and if we are lucky, perhaps a championship. The most significant reward a coach can hope for is to return a quality citizen to his family, and ultimately broader society. Our players continue to be winners on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.

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  richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!

Offensive Line Training On Your Own

My at-home OLine training program was recently featured on USA Football’s Coach and Coordinator Podcast with Keith2020-04-30 Coach and Coordinator podcast Grabowski.  Listen to the episode to learn how your offensive linemen can work on the skills at home.  Players do not have to be in their workout facility to get better at their techniques for the trenches. Listen here: Coach Alercio’s Podcast

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 richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!

You’re On The Clock!

The annual NFL draft offers teams an opportunity 2019-05-02 You're on the clock Logoto pick players they feel best fit their team.  But what are their criteria?  Do they take the best player available?  Do they fill a positional need?  Do they allow character flaws to impact their decisions?  How would you choose your team?

Over the past two years, I shared blogs detailing a practice we do at St Johnsbury Academy.  We draft our own team.  I share a list of all of our returning players with our assistant coaches and ask them to provide a draft order.  I do not provide criteria.  Their draft order indicates a great deal about their perspective and what is important to them as coaches.  Then I compare theirs to mine to see if the characteristics and traits I have set for our program are mirrored by our coaches.  Once completed, it provides an opportunity to discuss values, attributes, and culture.

Internally, this exercise helps me assess the effectiveness of my communication as a head coach, as well as affording me the opportunity to assess my staff’s willingness to think independently and express well-thought opinions. More directly in relation to the actual depth chart of returning veterans, this annual exercise also identifies any positional changes we may need to make in the off-season to ensure we field the best 11 on game day.

This weekend, I took a list of all of the players who have played for us at the Academy since we put our staff together in 2013 and drafted an “All 20-Teens Team” (2013-2019).  I listed only one name per position and included utility players for Offense, Defense, and Special Teams.  As I looked back on the list of 25 players, I realized how blessed we have been with the talent we have had over the past 7 years.  But, more importantly, all the names on the list embodied the values and culture we have worked so hard to instill.  They were not only the most talented;  they were the most selfless, the hardest working, and the best leaders.  They embraced the camaraderie in the locker room, brotherhood on the field, and accepted the responsibility of representing our team in the school and community.  They welcomed younger players into our program and shared our culture and values. I was also reminded how time flies, and in the fleeting moments we as coaches have to impact the lives of our student-athletes, our real pride shines through witnessing the men we give back to the community: who they become and all they accomplish after the last whistle blows.

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 richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!

Pull Steps

In our past two blogs, we have detailed at-home offensive line drills for Run and Pass Blocking.  This week, we focus on Pull Steps in the run game.  While we teach 5 different Pulls (Flat, Lead, Skip, Quick and Wide), for at-home training, we will only focus on the first three.

We will address the Steps as well as the body positioning in relationship to the line of scrimmage (or the view of your phone’s camera).  With the Flat Pull (Guard on the Trap play), we will take a 90-degree step with our play-side foot 2020-04-16 Pull Step and Leadand turn our body 90 degrees so that we can run Flat down the line of scrimmage or parallel to the line of scrimmage to Kick out a first level defender (Defensive Lineman) on the other side of the Center.

Next, we will do a Lead Pull (Tackle on the Wrap play).  We will take a 45-degree angle Bucket step with our play-side foot and turn our body at a 45-degree angle to the line of scrimmage then crossover step in front to run to the other side of the Center to Isolate a second-level defender (Inside Linebacker).

Lastly, we will Skip Pull (Guard on the Power play).  Take 2020-04-16 Pull Steps to Skipa crossover drop step with your backside foot going behind your play-side foot then follow with the play-side foot to keep your hips and shoulders parallel to the line of scrimmage.

Now, take the camera on your phone and place it directly in front of you.  Stand all the way to the left of your camera’s view so that you can record your movement in the direction you will pull.  Align as a Left Guard and Left Tackle.  Take a Flat Pull to your right stepping with your right foot first, return.  Take a Lead Pull to your right stepping with your right foot first, return.  Take a Skip Pull to the right stepping with your left foot first.  When you view your recording, confirm that on the Flat Pull your body is turned at a 90-degree angle to the camera.  On your Lead Pull your body is at a 45-degree angle to the camera.  And on your Skip Pull, you are facing the camera throughout the pull.  Then repeat as a Right Guard and Right Tackle.

Continue to practice and hone your OLine Skills every week with your Run, Pass and Pull Steps.

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 richalercio@gmail.com and share http://www.olineskills.com with your colleagues and friends. Thanks for supporting this blog and joining our conversations, and as always, thanks for your time!