KINGSWOOD CAPTAINS (l to r), Ben French, Rory Coughlin, Abe DeMaio and Cody Nason. Kathy Sutherland. (click for larger version)
November 26, 2012WOLFEBORO — Good leaders will always put the good of their group ahead of their own personal glory.
Often times, it's not easy to look ahead and plan for what's in the future while possibly sacrificing a little glory in the present.
Yet, anyone who has been associated with the Kingswood football team the last few years can easily say that the way things have played out on the field hasn't been exactly what they would like in the present, but it's about the future and where things should be in a few years.
Nobody has embodied that spirit of team over self more than the quartet of captains who helped to lead the Knights on the field this year.
Throughout the 0-9 record, they remained positive and upbeat, helping coach Chip Skelley and his staff build the program from the ground up with an eye on meeting with success in the future.
"It's something we all realized," said senior Cody Nason, one of this year's four captains.
"We sat down and new it would get hard, but when it gets hard, we're doing it for the benefit of the program," said junior Rory Coughlin, another of this year's captains. "Even for those kids who are still in middle school."
"I haven't known a victory," said junior Abe DeMaio, another of the team's captains. "It's hard.
"But really, what you can do is lead by example," DeMaio continued.
"You get them to see something other than the losses," Nason said.
Looking beyond the losses is somewhat of a theme for Skelley and his crew. It was evident at the start of the year, with only a few returning players and the four captains the lone players with significant amounts of experience, that it would be a long year for the Knights against tough competition like Plymouth, Trinity, St. Thomas and Windham.
The captains looked at their job as being keeping everyone focused on the goals, keeping things in control and helping the team grow as the season went along.
"We tried to keep everyone in control during practices and kept them from losing hope in the season," Coughlin said. "But there were definitely some bumps in the season, but we kept in control."
"There was hope," Nason said. "It wasn't everyone getting down on themselves."
One of the difficulties this year for the Knights was the fact that the freshmen and sophomores were expected to step into major roles at the varsity level, most without much experience past junior high, putting them at a serious disadvantage, but giving the captains some teachable moments.
"Everyone was at the varsity level this year," Coughlin said. "We were building for next year, not for us, but for the team."
Nason admitted that it may have been easier for the captains to accept the rebuilding plan because they had been around for a few years and had struggled to gain a footing as a team.
Getting the younger players on the varsity field can be a double-edged sword, as the players gain the experience of going up against stronger and faster opponents, but they also may face a confidence crisis when beaten by those same players.
"It should be positive for them, getting that experience," Nason said.
The captains hope that the younger players making their way up through the system stick with it and continue to improve.
"I want to see the people staying with the program," said Coughlin, noting his class had 25 kids playing as freshmen, but that number dropped to 10 by the time they were juniors.
"That's what the program is going toward now," said senior Ben French, the fourth captain. "It's about the younger kids and keeping them around."
The captains all pointed toward the Plymouth program, led by longtime coach Chuch Lenahan, as an example of where they want to be. The Bobcats run the same system from the youth leagues all the way through high school, so by the time players reach high school they are simply perfecting plays, not learning the basics.
"They have the program that we're hoping to build," French said.
"We want that program," Nason said.
All four were quick to recognize, however, that it takes work from the kids in order to get that success and reach the pinnacle that the Bobcats have reached.
"We hope that has the program is getting stronger, people are committed a lot more to the offseason workouts," Nason said.
"We want 100 percent participation in the offseason," French said, noting the addition of the school's weight room prior to the start of this season could easily be a huge boon to the program, if players are willing to take advantage of it.
"We want to see the young kids who were forced into action (this season) develop and see them come into themselves," French said.
'Big numbers are great as sophomores, but that has to continue as juniors and seniors," Coughlin said.
French pointed to the team's depth as something that could be improved by larger numbers, as players would be more rested not having to play both offense and defense, which was the case for most of the Knights this season.
"I want to see people challenge each other to get better," French said. "Now it's hard to get kicked out of a starting spot, so you want to get that depth and if those younger classes stay in tact, it will happen."
Using the weight room properly is key, according to all four captains. A kid who shines against good competition as a freshman needs to continue to get better because those around him will continue to get better each and every day as well, making his job harder.
"We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores, but as the other teams get bigger, we can't keep up because we didn't have people in the weight room," Coughlin said.
DeMaio and Coughlin will both be returning as captains in their senior year and both are hoping that the rest of the team will follow their lead and take football seriously, both in the offseason and into next fall.
"Preparation is key," DeMaio said. "We have to be focused on the game. We have to make sure people take it seriously next year."
"We need to have a point where we can play football," Coughlin said. "It should be how can we beat these guys, what's our strategy, not just let's not get killed."
With a recent rule change from the NHIAA, teams can now start working together in the season prior to their season, meaning football players can come together as a team in the spring season to begin working.
"I think we'll be able to do a lot more," Coughlin said. "We can coach kids up so they can be football smart."
Looking back on their years in the program, the four all are hoping that they are part of the group that turns things around and gets the ball moving in the right direction for Kingswood football.
"It's nice to be part of a group that didn't want to quit," Nason said. "Every time going on the field knowing you're going to get trounced, but that guy next to you is going to stand next to you and is not going to quit."
"A few years down the road, I want to say I helped start something," Coughlin said. "I want to be part of the winning tradition."
"Us being positive definitely started the process," Nason said.
"It was probably one of the hardest things, knowing it was not going to go as well as you like, but you still have to work hard and show those younger kids," French said.
And the quartet is well aware that the process is not going to happen overnight. It's going to take a little time.
"We have to keep the big picture in mind," Coughlin said. "I'd rather know the program is going to be good for 20 years rather than just the four years I was here."
And the captains were quick to point to Skelley as the right man for the job of building the program forward, as he has shown the no-quit attitude they all champion.
"I don't think we could've asked for a better coach for the position Kingswood's in," Nason said. "He keeps us all positive."
"And I think he'll get tougher on them as they get older," French added.
Nason noted that there were a few times that the four captains got a bit down during the season, but it was Skelley who helped them back up.
"We got down, but he brought us in and just talked to us," Nason said. "It was nice."
With a younger group of kids rising through the ranks of Kingswood football, they could do no better than to look at this group of four captains for their example with which to follow. Following that lead can only lead the Kingswood football program in the right direction.
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 569-3126