Recurring Themes & Looking Ahead…

Following this season’s success, I have had a number of conversations with questions along recurring themes and thought it might be useful to share them here…

Coaching is Coaching

Q:  How do you feel about being voted coach of the year by your fellow coaches around the state?

A: I am humbled and grateful for the recognition from my peers. Further, the outpouring of support, thanks, and congratulations from parents, former players, colleagues and members of our community has been remarkable. That all having been said, our success is a reflection of the hard work, dedication, and commitment displayed individually and collectively by our team, staff, and school. While I’m pleased with this year’s success, the real prize is the chance to witness longer term success of our players and program.

Q: Did you ever think you would find yourself a State Championship Coach and Coach of the Year at St Johnsbury Academy after your challenges at Castleton State?

A: One of my former players at the Academy texted me the day of the state championship game and reminded me of the first motivational speech I gave prior to my first game at St Johnsbury.  I shared with the players, “I do not know why I am here coaching this team, but I know there is a reason, and that God has a plan…” He finished the text by stating, “Tonight is the reason.”  I’ve been the beneficiary of an extraordinary group of teachers, coaches, and mentors who saw potential and invested in me. One way or another, I’ve always felt it important to return the favor and invest in others and leave a legacy far more important than wins and losses.

Q: What’s next…Are you headed back to the College Coaching Ranks?

A: The opportunity to coach these kids, two of my sons, and bring a state championship to this community, has been the most rewarding experience of my life.   I feel extraordinarily privileged to have this opportunity and plan on making the most of it. What’s next…? Preparing for next season… In fact, I just published a blog about a coach’s responsibilities for closing out the season and kicking off preps for next year. You can read it at

Additionally, I’d like to share a recent PodCast I did with Coach Keith Grabowski on “The Coach and Coordinator Podcast.” We go in-depth on lessons learned from the 2017 season and you can listen here: Coach Alerio on The Coach and Coordinator Podcast, or via your favorite podcasting app.

Lastly, I’ll be publishing my upcoming list of clinics (January and February) where I’ll be speaking live on many of the topics covered here as well as diving deep into the X’s and O’s, and we’ll have brochures ready for the 2018 Alercio O-Line Clinics.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss team building, 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 your time!

Thanksgiving… & Next Steps…

2017-11-26 St J State Champs

Having gone 11-0, winning a State Championship, and contributing to the lives of such wonderful young men, I’m thankful for so many things this year. I’d also like to thank you who have followed the blog and our team over a journey we began shortly after Thanksgiving 2016. The outpouring of support from the students, faculty, administrators, and the local community has been extraordinary. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the love and support of my wife, and the utter joy of sharing this season with my sons. All year long we’ve worked hard to be worthy in the eyes of those who invested in us and at the same time, worthy of our individual and collective investments as players, coaches, and teammates. At it’s best, football teaches us dedication, loyalty, commitment, courage, and integrity; individual elements of character amplified by the team. Elements leaving indelible marks on our hearts, and win or lose, ultimately contributing to success later in life.

Having taken a few moments to savor the success of the 2017 season and to be genuinely grateful for the individual and collective successes, challenges, and contributions to our championship, it’s time to move on and think about next steps.

End of Season Duties

We just completed the perfect season, undefeated state champions.  As a staff, we worked 15 hour days 7 days-a-week for 3 months.  Now it is all over.  What do we do now?

Equipment.  Collect all equipment.  Check for loss or damage.  Inventory your equipment to determine needs for next year.  Schedule reconditioning of hard gear.

Meetings.  Schedule 10-15 minute, 1-on-1 meetings with every player.  Get their feedback on the season, their role on the team, and their relationship with their position coaches.  Then discuss their future in the program.   Where do they see themselves next year?  Tell them where you see them.  Convey your belief in their ability to contribute, and set expectations for their contributions. Find out what their plans are for the winter season.  Discuss future plans for outgoing seniors… college, vocation, military.  Then schedule meetings with your assistant coaches to review their roles.   See if they are happy in their role and if their family is happy in the program.  Get their feedback on the past season and their input on plans for next season. Lastly, prepare a “wants and needs” list then schedule a meeting with your athletic director or head of school.  The “needs” should be those things to keep your program where you are.  The “wants” are those things that can bring your program to the next level.

Celebrate.  Nail down a banquet date to celebrate the successes of the past season.  11-0 or 0-11, there are things to be grateful for, don’t let them go unrecognized. Determine award recipients to honor those deserving players.  Make a list of the peripheral people in your program you need to invite and publicly thank…Training staff, Chain gang, Grounds Crew, Booth crew, local media, administrators, boosters and coaches’ wives. Though they may not feel they are the core of your team, make sure they know we couldn’t do it without them.

Athletic Performance.  Work with a certified strength and conditioning specialist to create an off-season workout program maximizing athletic performance not just increasing a player’s 1 rep max.  If you do not have better players, make your players better.

Professional development.  Seek opportunities for yourself and your staff.  Visit colleges and/or attend clinics.  Identify those things you are interested in bringing to your program next season and research those who do it well.

Video analysis.  Perform a self-scout and statistical analysis of your plays, formations, motions, fronts, blitzes, coverages.  If it did not work, get rid of it.  If it did, build upon it, and as my Marine Corps friends say, “reinforce success!”

Next season.  Prepare your depth chart for Spring Ball.  Consider moving players to get the best players on the field in the most complementary roles.  Have a plan to bring in your incoming 8th-grade class and set expectations for leadership responsibilities across each of the returning class cohorts: every player’s personal example matters!

Enjoy the Holidays and some well-earned downtime, and again, thanks for joining us on this journey. I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss team building, 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 your time!

Midseason Offensive Changes…

Midseason Offensive Changes

2017-10-10 remember-the-titans


“Every Coach has certain tendencies…” 

“All of them except Ed Henry.” 

“The only time we’d be seeing Ed Henry is at the state championship.” 

You may remember those lines from the movie “Remember the Titans.”  Those words were true then and even truer now.  Other coaches are studying your tendencies. At this point of the season, opponents have multiple games and scouts on you and your team and will have strong tendency data on Play by Formation, Play by Down & Distance, Play by Personnel and Play by Field Position and may have discovered vulnerabilities in your reaction to certain circumstances.

How do we counter such a data advantage?

We counter our opponent’s expectations by “scripting out of tendency.”

Do a self-scout of your offense to see what you are calling in those situations and create a 10-15 play “out of tendency” script. For example, if you have a strong tendency to pass in your 3×1 open set, script a run.  If you have a strong run tendency in a down & distance situation, script a play action pass the first time you are in that situation.

The other change you may wish to consider is a change of your signals, if you are a No Huddle team.  Coaches may be able to see you signaling from the sideline on video.  They most likely have also live scouted you giving signals and may even have videotaped you giving the signal then the play that follows.  You also may be preparing for playoffs and very likely may be playing a team for a second time.

To hear more about scripting out of tendency, no huddle signals and other topics that pertain to preparing for gameday, you can listen to USA Football’s Coach and Coordinator Podcast hosted by Keith Grabowski by clicking  GAMEDAY PREP or the clipboard below.

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss team building, 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 your time!”

2017-07-11 check list
Click the Clipboard!


Follow up to Coach To Cure Muscular Dystrophy

Coach To Cure MD Follow Up Post

Last week I shared our efforts to support the 10th Anniversary of Coach to Cure Muscular2017-09-29 Coach to Cure MD Logo Dystrophy. I’m happy to report the program was successful both nationally and locally. It was great to see coaches on our sidelines sporting the Coach to Cure MD patches on their shirts, and equally exciting to see Division I coaches on TV wearing the same patches and supporting the same cause. Organizations at all levels raised funds and awareness, and I’m proud of our team’s efforts both on and off the field to support such a worthy program.

I’d like to share an editorial by Mr. Todd M. Smith, from this week’s Caledonian Record, and thank Mr. Smith for the sentiments he expresses. In many ways, he captures the essence of exactly what we as a team and members of the community were trying to accomplish. The Oct 3rd Editorial is pasted below and can be read in its original form on the Caledonian Record Website here: Mutual Admiration Society

Editorial: Mutual Admiration Society

Oct 3, 2017

The Caledonian Record

On Saturday the St. Johnsbury Academy football team roared back from a size-able deficit to beat previously unbeaten BFA/St. Albans. With the win, the mighty Hilltoppers remain perfect on the year.

We enjoyed reading Coach Rich Alercio’s comments on the game. He credited the hard-fought victory to conditioning and the hard work his kids put in long before the season started. “All the offseason work, in the summer and the spring, the lifting sessions; when it came down to it, BFA was bigger and stronger, but they didn’t hold up as well as we did,” Alercio said. “Our kids are so well conditioned. The work they put in during the summer, prepared them for a finish like that.”

 Being it our experience that hard work is the bedrock of all success, we appreciated Coach Alercio’s behest to players – “Never let anybody outwork you and never let anybody outlast you.”

 Good stuff.

 But there was something we liked even better about Saturday’s indefatigable effort from the Hilltoppers.

The young combatants were led into battle by another warrior – 14-year-old Thomas Chesbrough.

The wheelchair-bound Waterford resident was named honorary team captain as part of the nationwide Coach To Cure Muscular Dystrophy (MD) day. Chesbrough, who was born with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, wore SJA jersey number 75, participated in the pregame coin flip, then cheered the boys on as they rallied from a 28-14 deficit to a 36-28 win to establish themselves as the undisputed number one team in Vermont. The Hilltoppers wore patches on their uniforms to mark the occasion.

We were moved and humbled to watch our strongest and most physically capable athletes taking inspiration from those whose daily health fights put gridiron struggles into perspective. Chesbrough said he’s a big-time fan of football players and we’re with him on that. But we’re now big fans of Chesbrough, and we bet the entire SJA football community is with us on that.

I’d like to thank Mr. Smith for his editorial and express my sincere thanks for Thomas Chesbrough’s inspiring example. I’m proud of the team’s accomplishments, and prouder still of the players request to invite Thomas to continue in his role as honorary captain and join us on the field for the remainder of the season.

You can still get involved in the Parent Project for Muscular Dystrophy

Coach To Cure Muscular Dystrophy

Coach to Cure MD

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Coach To Cure MD.  Coach To Cure MD is a2017-09-29 Coach to Cure MD Logo partnership between the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) and Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD).  The AFCA was drawn to this cause because of the unique parallels between Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a disorder which robs young men of precious muscle strength, and football, a game where young men are at the peak of their muscular strength.

On Saturday, September 30, coaches nationwide will take the field wearing Coach To Cure MD patches on their sleeve to raise awareness of the disorder and raise money to fund research to discover a cure.

As coaches, we talk about winning the battles on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, but our battles pale in comparison to those fought every day by the young men afflicted with this disorder and their families.  We teach our players to fight through adversity, deal with setbacks, and overcome obstacles to help prepare them for life. We hold our upperclassmen accountable to set a good example through the trials and tribulations they encounter on and off the football field.

In the vast majority of cases, the challenges and adversity our players endure pale in comparison to the monumental task of confronting Muscular Dystrophy. Those who do fight it, and the parents and families of those children, often set the most extraordinary example of courage and commitment in the face of such a daunting opponent.

In their honor, and with the utmost hope and prayer those families are granted relief and a cure, I’ll be wearing my patch, and contributing to “Coach to Cure MD,” this weekend and encourage you to do the same.

You can visit to become more involved or click on the clipboard below to donate directly!

2017-09-29 Coach to Cure MD Clipboard

Why Go For 1 When You Can Get 2?

A quick update to say thanks for the notes and calls following Saturday’s 30-8 win against the Essex Hornets. 2-0 is a great start to the season and I’m proud of our players, coaches, and the students, parents, and faculty who braved the rain to cheer us on to victory in our home opener.

I’ve been fortunate to develop some great partnerships during my career, and the relationship with USA Football is one of the best. You may recall I traveled to Phoenix earlier this summer to record several coaching videos and we discussed them in blog posts last month.

USA Football just published an article I wrote about going for 2 on Points After Touchdown (PAT). I mentioned last week our student athletes have cultivated the confidence in themselves and each other necessary to consistently succeed when going for 2. We proved it in week one and again on Saturday against Essex. Take some time to consider your options and create opportunities to distance your team from your opponent.

You can read the article here: Why Go For 1, When you Can Get 2?

2017-09-10 Go for 2

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss team building, 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 your time!

Hard Work Pays Off

Now that training camp and game #1 are behind us, I have some time to get back to the blog.  Thankfully this summer’s preparation was time well spent.  I’m proud of the way our student athletes made individual and collective contributions to the team both on and off the field. We focused on the fundamentals, practiced hard, and closed pre-season physically and mentally ready. We opened our season on the road against the team that beat us in the 2016, Vermont Division I State Championship and came away with a 22-19 win.  Tough opener but it did provide great motivation and a point of focus for our players through summer OTAs and Training Camp.

Going for 2 was the difference in this year’s game.  We converted 2-of-3, 2-point conversions and they made only 1 extra point.  In some programs, it wouldn’t be uncommon to see a coach take credit for what some would consider a “gutsy call.” On the contrary, those calls were based on our players’ hard earned confidence in themselves and belief in each other as teammates.

(Photo by Paul Hayes)

After the game, several reporters approached me to request interviews with our quarterback, who had over 100 yards rushing, 100 yards passing, two touchdowns, and two 2-point conversions, and our running back who had over 100 yards rushing and a touchdown.  After setting up the interviews, one of my senior offensive linemen who had a stellar game both offensively and defensively with 3 pancake blocks, a sack, a tackle for a loss and a blocked extra point, came up to me and said that they are interviewing the wrong guys.  He was so right.  Football is a game of interdependence. Teams, families, companies all find themselves depending on one another. Inevitably some get credit, some get blame, and in time history settles on its version of what actually happened.

Though the local paper may recount the story through a reporter’s lens, we’ll grade the game film recognizing both the things we did well and the things we can do better. Each player will know how he contributed, and it is my sincere hope each will find ways to recognize those who played to their potential regardless of the media’s perspective. But in the end, each has to reconcile with their own conscience earning and affirming self respect and satisfaction born of knowing they selflessly gave their very best.

With that in mind, I share a great article featured at that my assistant head of school forwarded to me entitled “The 6 most important life lessons you learn by playing offensive line.”

Coach Rich Alercio is available to discuss team building, 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 your time!