NORTH KINGSTOWN—For the first time in a long time the North Kingstown football team’s season ended on a high note with a win over rival South Kingstown on Thanksgiving Day.
While it counted for just one win in the standings, the true value of that victory was apparent Monday when the Skippers held their first practice of the fall.
“It’s a huge confidence booster,” senior Nick Chevalier said of last year’s win over SK. “It’s made everyone work that much harder to get to that level of play every game.”
“It helped us for a period of time in the offseason,” NK coach Joe Gilmartin said Monday. “It helped to get into the weight room and it helped build some interest in our program. Our numbers are really, really strong right now and believe it or not there are over 100 kids here.”
For a number of years interest in the football program at NK had dwindled, resulting in three straight winless seasons in Division I (0-24 in league play) from 2009 to 2011.
Last fall in Division II-B the Skippers went 1-6 in Division II-B under Gilmartin but the team won a handful of non-league games against D-II A opponents and of course, South Kingstown.
Now that some interest has returned to the program though, Gilmartin knows the hard part is just beginning.
“We generated a lot of interest now it’s continuing to make it a program that kids want to be a part of,” he said. “We can’t lose kids tomorrow or the next day. When you’ve got 100 kids it’s hard to make sure everyone gets quality reps.”
Throw in the new limitations on the amount of time a team can practice in a day and it makes Gilmartin and the rest of the coaching staff’s jobs doubly challenging.
“It’s just really difficult in an hour and a half, which is what we’re kind of limited to in terms of the interscholastic league,” Gilmartin says. “You get three hours a day if you’re going to go into double sessions format, which is the format we really like, it’s an hour and a half practice.
“…We’re on the field for an hour and a half in the morning, we have basically two 45-minutes blocks of classroom and film for each position group in the middle section of the day and then lunch and then an alternating schedule of lifting – so half the kids lifted today, half the kids will lift tomorrow.”
Even with the challenge of trying to get each player the coaching they need to improve, Gilmartin feels his team is ahead of last season’s pace.
“In terms of the learning curve we’re probably ahead of where we were last year but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” he said. “We still want to make sure we’re teaching everything well, doing the best that we can.”
Just how well the Skippers can do this season is a subject for another time though as for players like Chevalier, it’s just nice to be back on the field playing the sport they love.
“It’s great. I missed it,” he said. “I’m really excited and I can’t wait for this season. We’ve got a good team, we’re working really hard so I just can’t wait to see what’s going to happen.”