In this round one play-off week, we’re talking a lot of numbers: power points, rankings, records, and residual points. I need a calculator to have a conversation. I’m not a math whiz—actually I’m not even math-competent—and I’m tired of stats. It’s no wonder my fingers started itching when I heard this story.
There’s a small school in a far corner of New Jersey that does not have a winning record and won’t make playoffs. Yet this program has produced three leaders that are winners by all definitions.
Daniel Struble, Charlie McCann, and Matt Babcock are co-captains for Sussex Tech Football, a 4-5 team with a season that has all but ended.
For these three young men, the game is still going on. All through the season, when other football players were limping from fields, exhausted, beat-up, and ready for a break, these three headed to Hardyston for a second football practice, not to improve their own game but to help a team of seventh graders who were in need of more coaches.
“Sometimes you want to go home and relax, but when you make a commitment you have to be there,” says Babcock, Sussex Tech OL/DL.
It was Daniel Struble who first expressed an interest in helping his brother’s team, and he and his friend Charlie McCann were quickly put to work. Then, when McCann accidentally left his clothes in teammate Matt Babcock’s car following a high school practice, and Babcock drove his friend’s clothes to the seventh grade field, “that was that,” according to Babcock. The three players joined forces to become motivators and mentors for the younger players. They brought pads to the field, showing the wide-eyed youth players “what they do in high school.” They brought energy to the practice, and to the sidelines where they are allowed to stand during games.
Daniel Struble, WR and DB for Sussex Tech, hopes to not only become a coach someday but to also follow a career in athletic training, an interest that was spawned when he was forced to work back from an injury.
OL/DL Charlie McCann also has an interest in coaching. For now, he teaches his young team to “never give up.” As a 110-pound high school freshman McCann worked hard to become a fast lineman who can shoot the gaps. He likes to teach that “size doesn’t matter” but rather how much you want it.
Matt Babcock also had a difficult high school start but stuck it out in football, mostly thanks to his dad’s support, the man Babcock refers to as “the smartest guy I know.” Babcock also attributes his football skills to his high school coaches. His hope? To pass on the things he’s learned about hard work, and how it pays off. The affable Babcock laughs. “Wow, I sound like my father!”
Days start early for these co-captains. Before school McCann swims in order to train for a PT test he’ll take in attempt to qualify as a rescue swimmer. Then, after a full day in the classroom, and grueling high school practice, these three players continue their day promoting ideals they learned from coaches and families—forging that chain of coaching that can inspire countless youth football players.
Sussex Tech has a consolation game at home, 1PM, Saturday.