NYACK – With hungry players seated in the Nyack Middle School cafeteria, Dominick DeMatteo, always talking, circled them just before they lined up for lunch. He spent that first real practice break Monday booming encouragement into their ears and preaching the importance of staying energized and hydrated. Yes, there was football, but he also reminded them to eat and drink water.
What some coaches may consider basic human functions were just two of countless points of emphasis for DeMatteo. No detail was lost — or has been deemed too small — in his debut as Nyack’s new football coach.
“He’s giving us more instructions and we’re doing more talking, but it’s OK,” senior Dante Frazier said. “That will help our younger kids.”
The players new and old have been the center of DeMatteo’s attention since he was hired in late May. Nyack started its offseason program late and will now face a season of field conflicts as its new stadium is constructed at the high school. Yet he remains unfazed by the many obstacles.
“I think one of the most important things I bring to the table as a first-year head coach at Nyack is that I’m not a first-year head coach,” DeMatteo said after Monday’s morning session. “I was a head coach at Arlington for nine years and I’m going into my 20th-something year coaching. I’ve been at a variety of places that have their own share of obstacles. I think the bottom line is preparation and communication. You have to have a plan well in advance and communicate that to your staff so everyone is ready.”
DeMatteo’s organizational bent was a key component in his hiring. The Indians not only needed someone to replace coach Mike Ramponi, who left to become the athletic director at Ardsley, but their roster was gutted by losses to graduation. DeMatteo referred to the program being at “Ground Zero” because of the extent of turnover this offseason.
“He’s not overwhelmed,” said Joe Sigillo, Nyack’s athletic director. “I think when you’re confident in your abilities and you have experience, challenges don’t overwhelm you. To his credit, he’s found positives in them, which is more of a credit to how prepared he is, how much he knows the game and what a great influence he’s going to be on these kids..”
The district’s three-phase construction project has progressed – as chronicled by Sigillo’s Twitter account — but the main stadium that will host football won’t be completed until next season. The team will play one last fall at its iconic home, MacCalman Field, but the ongoing construction will force Nyack to hold practices at the middle school and on MacCalman, a natural grass surface prone to wear and tear.
“In lieu of what we’re going to get in terms of the stadium and the turf at Nyack High School, this is well worth it,” DeMatteo said.
He has decided to keep the varsity and JV together for at least this week and maybe longer. Their juggling will be much more evident when modified practice begins later this summer.
“We have to make do with what we have,” senior Christian DiSimone said. “We can’t look at it in a negative way. We just have to keep the positive vibes going and get everyone hyped for the season.”
For DeMatteo, it will be a season unlike any other. Not only has he taken on a new challenge at Nyack, he will also watch from afar as three of his former assistants — Mike Lindberg (White Plains), Doug Carpenter (Byram Hills) and Michael Morano (Arlington) — ascend to head coaching positions.
Amid all of this morning’s activity, he said they have already given him a sense of accomplishment — even on Day 1 of a new season.
“I feel great about the fact it, especially in an era where it’s difficult to get quality people to commit to coach for a variety of reasons,” DeMatteo said. “To have all three of them be head coaches the same year I’m at a new place is really cool.”