By Adam Reed • Associate Editor • This Is AFCA Magazine & AFCAWeekly.com
Every single week during the football season, Somers (N.Y.) High School head coach Tony DeMatteo’s staff recognizes a different member of the scout team as its player of the week. This individual isn’t recognized for impact plays, stats or talent. He is recognized for setting a standard in the department of good old-fashioned hard work.
The night before game day, DeMatteo addresses his team at a special dinner. The scout team player of the week is the focal point of his message. The following day, the individual chosen will join the usual team captains at midfield for the coin toss, a clear message to all his players that effort is just as important to the team as leadership or talent.
“If kids are breaking their butt in practice, running their routes hard and trying to catch every pass, and then they drop a sure touchdown pass in the game and we lose the game, they will never hear it from me,” DeMatteo says. “I won’t say a word if that happens. My heart breaks for that kid. I think kids appreciate that. They’re with me. They give me everything they have and we let the chips fall where they may.”
Winning is important. DeMatteo will be the first to tell you how it must be stressed if you want to be successful. However, in order to have the best chance to reach every player on the roster, it cannot and should not be at the top of a coach’s priority list.
A few years ago, Somers lost a double overtime game on a blocked PAT. One of the tight ends blew his assignment, and just like that, the game was over. The following week there was an opportunity to score the go-ahead touchdown with time winding down in a game they needed to win to make the playoffs.
The play call in this situation was perfect for a pass to the tight end. DeMatteo surveyed the field and noticed the absence of the tight end who had cost them the game a week ago. The coach called timeout and put him in the game, and he caught the game winning touchdown.
“I wanted to win the game, and winning is important to me, but reaching that kid is more important,” DeMatteo says.
As a football coach, it is impossible to achieve 100 percent consistency in anything, on or off the field. This is especially true when it comes to reaching young people; you just can’t reach them all. DeMatteo has spent a lifetime trying to reach as many as he can. Even though he has had to face the heartache of losing some along the way, it could never compare with the satisfaction and joy of seeing just one player succeed. The impact on society may be hard to judge, but the impact on the players he reached is immeasurable.
For more perspective on Coach DeMatteo, check out the November/December 2016 issue of This Is AFCA Magazine.