CROTON-ON-HUDSON – In the midst of their second session on a steamy opening day of practice, Croton-Harmon players lined up to run routes. It didn’t matter for the moment what position they played or that the passes from their new head coach, Joe Streany, weren’t always on target. They were learning a skill and — Streany hoped — enjoying it, utility be damned.
“I want to breed that motivation, that interest in them so that when they leave today they want to come back tomorrow and say, ‘I’m ready,'” Streany said. “‘My shoulder pads are on, my cleats are on.’ I want them to be out there before me.”
The last part may be a stretch considering the 30-year-old Streany is high-energy and a proud Croton alum. But the first-year coach was guardedly optimistic after his first day of practice as he and a young coaching staff aim to rebuild a program short on numbers that is coming off of a 2-6 season.
“This morning I couldn’t believe how much we got done,” he said. “We came back out after lunch and put everyone back together. We were running through plays and I was speechless. It was only two plays so it was basic, but we were running them right.”
Right now, Streany has lasered his focus on small victories. Although he has been on staff since 2008, Streany earned most of his experience under longtime coach John Catano last season when he had an active hand in the offense. His assistants are either equally young, have less experience or are both. Ryan Callahan is 29, Dave Occipinti is 22 and Steve Palencsar is the elder statesman at 32. His new brother-in-laws, former star quarterbacks Nick and Jesse Mainiero, will likely guest star at camp as well.
Even so, Streany hopes to add an experienced coach to give the staff wisdom and said that several members of the community of volunteered their services. He also plans to keep a hand extended to Catano, who coached Streany in high school and later led Croton to a pair of state final appearances.
“We’re kind of turning the page, but we’re definitely keeping that playbook to the past open,” he said.
Streany’s main task might just be cultivating the roster. Croton started Monday with just 21 players, combined from all four classes and with no JV program in place. Because of conflicts and previous obligations, Streany still expects to add a few more players this week, but the numbers will undoubtedly be tight.
The youth and those roster limitations are the main reasons he and his coaches have resisted the urge to accelerate the installation of plays and defenses. They believe less could mean more in the long run.
“Hopefully tomorrow I’m as optimistic as today, but it is a day-by-day thing,” Streany said. “I like to take it session by session. If we’re going be go from Point A to Point B, it has to be calculated and we have to be careful.”