By Kieran Rafferty ’23
Being a coach is no easy task. Chaminade High School, however, is fortunate enough to have a dedicated coaching staff that instructs young men not only in their respective sports, but also in the development of their characters.
Among Chaminade’s many outstanding coaches are Mr. Dennis Bligen, Mr. Michael Dolce ‘99, Mr. Christopher Lynch ‘82, and Mr. Kevin Parente ‘82. In honor of their years of dedication to Chaminade’s football program, these four coaches (all of whom are St. John’s University alumni) were recently awarded the Master Coach Award from the St. John’s Touchdown Club.
The Master Coach Award is given to exemplary coaches for “advancing the St. John’s spirit by influencing young men in their endeavors as role models, character builders, and successful coaches.” This award is the first of its kind because it is extremely rare that four coaches played football at the same college and, now, pass on their shared values at the same high school.
Not only do these coaches have a major influence on their players’ performance, but the players often look up to the coaches as role models.
Dolce explained, “I have had a lot of great coaches in my life as a player, and I feel that the ones that stood out from the rest are the ones that truly cared about me as not only a player, but a person. When a player knows that a coach cares about them, there is a bond that forms that lasts a lifetime. The goal at the end of any season is to foster that bond and give them the tools to be successful in life. I’ve been on teams that have had winning records and losing records, but the goal of a coach is always the same: to foster that bond and help these young men recognize their greatness.”
Chaminade’s coaches also work to better themselves as much as players do. “As a coach or teacher,” Lynch stated, “one always strives to improve. I would watch videos, go to clinics, and constantly put in the time to make practices more enjoyable, as well as to get better in my approach to teaching what we would like to see from the players. The challenge each season is to get the players to realize their potential. Our job is to constantly encourage and coach individuals to believe in themselves—to become the best that they can be. As long as they improve their skills and techniques, they should be able to help themselves and their teammates, and ultimately realize their full potential…Conceive, Believe, Achieve.”
Undoubtedly, the most difficult decision for coaches is cutting a person and, sometimes, the decision is not even in the hands of the coach. “Each and every season always starts with tryouts,” Lynch continued. “We are blessed here at Chaminade to have a wonderful and competitive athletic program. Unfortunately, we sometimes do not have enough equipment, such as football helmets or lockers, to carry very large numbers on the teams. That is probably the most difficult task: to cut a player. To tell them they did not make the team. Each coach tries to see the talent in each player and get that player to play to his potential.”
Offering advice to athletes, Lynch said, “Each year situations change. Nothing is guaranteed in life. You have to work to get what you want. Work hard, train, show the coach what talents you have. Strive to become a little better each day. Believe in yourself.”
All four of Chaminade’s “master” coaches believe in the same core values: teamwork, honesty, perseverance, positive character, and taking initiative. Dolce clarified, “I played for some great coaches at Chaminade: Bill Basel, Coach Lynch, and Coach Parente. They really inspired me on and off the field. Going to St. John’s, I had some great ones as well—including Coach Bob Ricca and Coach Anthony Barusso—and they all stressed the same core values.”
The personal relationships between a coach and a player are not only important, but they create an unbreakable bond that will last a lifetime.
Mr. Lynch ‘82 concluded, “Ultimately, the bonds that I have formed with my players are priceless. I enjoy going to reunions and meeting their wives and kids. But mostly, I enjoy listening to their stories about practices or games or things I said…You never really know the impact a positive coach has on a player. Seeing them become husbands and fathers, and seeing them keep their friendships throughout the years, that’s the true award.”
Congratulations to Bligen, Dolce, Lynch, and Parente, who have shown excellence in passing on both St. John’s and Chaminade values to the next generation of Flyers football players.