Chris Taylor has accepted the most difficult high school coaching assignment of his career: running the modified football team at Franklin.
The Franklin varsity football team faded from sight by 2014, as low participation numbers led to a merger with Leadership Academy. The Rochester City School District has invested in modified sports, in a grow-out approach to strengthen its teams.
“At the end of the day, we want programs that can compete and we want those numbers,” said Carlos Cotto, the district’s director of health, physical education and athletics.
Part of the job for Taylor at Franklin is to get the middle school students engaged with the team. Cotto said there is no timetable for Franklin’s return to varsity football.
“The opportunity to build (almost) from scratch intrigued me,” said Taylor, 32. “Let me try to build something that hasn’t been there before. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“They’ve had programs before, but they struggled with numbers a lot.”
Taylor’s coaching background is in football as well as track and field, and almost entirely in the city school district, with the exception of one outdoor track and field season as Greece Arcadia’s varsity coach. He has coached track for nine years, including five at Wilson and three at Edison.
Taylor’s football experience includes four years as an assistant at Edison, including a season as JV coach, and one as an assistant at Wilson. The Edison graduate is a in-school-suspension teacher.
“You have a beautiful new turf field and track at Franklin,” said Taylor. “There’s no way Franklin should not have a team. It would be kind of an injustice.”
Taylor replaced Jason George, who remains with the team as an assistant coach.
The city school district offered modified football for the first time two years ago; at Franklin, East, Wilson Foundation and Monroe. Cotto said about 165 students total played modified football in the city school district. Frederick Douglass joined the original city modified football teams in 2015 and will bring a JV team to the field this fall.
Franklin athletic director David Boundy said the number of modified players at the school increased from 46 at the end of the 2014 season to 60 last year. Taylor hoped to get the word out about the 2016 team this month, basically recruit Franklin middle school students, with a target of 50 to 60 students.
“I know his desire is off the charts,” said Monroe varsity coach Jason Muhammad.
Monroe began its return to varsity football three years ago, with Muhammad as coach of the modified team. Interest was high enough that Monroe had the numbers to also field a JV squad coached by Muhammad the next season. Monroe’s next step is this fall, with Muhammad again as coach of the school’s first varsity team in 30 years.
“When we started we had one rubber football that wasn’t blown up all the way,” said Muhammad. “We had absolutely nothing. We are teaching everything. We taught the team how to sit on the bus. Remember, there isn’t a bus in Pop Warner, your mother or father take you to the game.”
While Muhammad, his coaching assistants and the city school district pulled together equipment, they also continued to sell football around Monroe after the modified and JV teams were formed.
“It’s not all about football, it’s about relationships,” said Muhammad.
Taylor and Muhammad talk once a week. Muhammad’s top-three points of advice to build a high school football program?
- “He can’t let his desire overcome his reality. They have to be able to meet each other.”
- “He has to make sure the entire school knows the positive benefits of football. We’re talking about impacting the entire school community.”
- “Enjoy the process. At some point, have fun. If we didn’t like to do this, we wouldn’t.”