New football coach fosters team unity

 Photo by Mia Svirsky.
Coach Keith Thomas instructs senior Ben Knopf, a quarterback, during one of the team’s practices at Downes Field. Photo by Mia Svirsky.

Being new to a group with its own unique culture and complexities is rarely an easy experience. This year, health and fitness teacher Keith Thomas is new to the high school’s varsity football team, and he is determined to have a positive impact on the team culture.

Thomas became the varsity football coach last spring after applying for the position three times. He offered English teacher Nick Rothstein the position of assistant coach; both coaches are new this season. The team’s preseason started in the middle of August and the regular season will end on Thanksgiving Day.

According to Rothstein, the team currently has an 0-3 record (update closer to send). Its most recent game was Braintree’s homecoming game and although the team came close, they did not pull off a win.

“Our team played really well,” Rothstein said. “We grew, and that’s the most important thing. There’s plenty to work on, but we took a step forward.”

To move forward, Thomas has made an effort to create, a “family-type atmosphere.” According to Thomas, so far the team has had a preseason barbeque, team meals before each game and a homework center on Wednesdays after school for players to help each other.

“The biggest key is bringing the group together, where you’re not just playing for yourself. You’re playing for a bigger purpose: everyone else,” Thomas said.

Senior and quarterback Ben Knopf said that a focus on unity characterizes Thomas’s coaching style.

“We all have the same uniform; no one’s bigger than the team,” Knopf said. “That’s his philosophy. He feels that if everyone carries some of the weight, we’re going to succeed.”

The type of team atmosphere Thomas emphasizes was not promoted as much as it was last year, according to tight end, wide receiver and defensive end player junior Tyler Patterson. Patterson said that this difference could lead to higher success for the team than in past seasons.

“Even in practice it’s all about doing things as a team: getting the equipment out for practice and putting it all away together. It’s all about doing it together as one cohesive group,” Patterson said.

Thomas said he feels that players need to build solid relationships with each other in order to find success as a team.

“It’s definitely going to take some time for them to build trust in each other and the coaching staff,” Thomas said. “It’s slowly coming together. I think a lot of people will be amazed at the result.”

Knopf also said that a team connection will be essential to performing well in games. He said that a lack of team unity contributed to a lack of success in past seasons.

“I don’t think we’re going up against kids that are faster or stronger than us. I think we’re just going up against kids that are more on the same page and that all understand exactly what they need to do,” Knopf said. “They have that fight in them that I think we have, but we’re just not using it to the best of our abilities.”

The reason, according to Patterson, is the players’ lack of confidence in their abilities.

“That’s the only thing we lack,” Patterson said. “I think learning that from coach Thomas will be something that will definitely push us to more success in the years to come.”

The team, according to Rothstein, can do much better in the future. A current focus is laying the foundation to work towards that goal.

“[The coaches] see this as a program that’s going to take years to continue to grow. There’s growing pains now, but there’s also good things that we’re seeing.”

According to Knopf, the team can do well if they not only follow, but believe in Thomas’s coaching.

“I’d really like to see us reach our full potential,” Knopf said as he explained his goals for the team this season. “Ever since I was a freshman, I don’t think I’ve seen a team that I’ve played for reach their full potential.”

Thomas agrees that the team this year has untapped potential.

“We haven’t reached our potential yet, and it’s there,” Thomas said. “It’s coming, and that’s why I’m so excited about this job. We have great kids here. All we need is for those great kids to come out and want to be a part of something.”

Kate Finnerty can be contacted at [email protected]