By LOCAL TOWN PAGES - Tom Angelo’s first year as Franklin High’s athletic director was successful on a variety of fronts.
The 55-year-old New Jersey native, who previously was A.D. at Somerset-Berkley and Plymouth North, fulfilled the goals he outlined last fall, and he also was delighted with the success that so many of the Panthers’ teams experienced.
Angelo can proudly reflect on the 2016-17 school year knowing that Franklin had 11 teams that won Hockomock League crowns and two, boys’ basketball and girls’ lacrosse, that were Sectional champs. The boys’ hoop squad finished as state runner-up and the girls’ lacrosse team lost in the state semifinal game.
Other areas in the success column include heightened leadership initiatives by student-athletes, increased participation in athletics, more community involvement, the addition of a girls’ gymnastics team and a unified sports program, keeping user fees at their current rates and installing new turf and upgrading the track at Pesini Field (currently underway).
“My goals were to get to know our athletes and coaches and help both be the best they could be,’’ Angelo said. “I also wanted to create opportunities for student leadership and community service and to build a culture of sportsmanship and academic excellence. Participation in athletics provides student-athletes with opportunities to learn about respect, sacrifice, leadership, teamwork, commitment, humility and the thrill of victory.’’
Franklin High basked in the glow of victory so often in the last year. Winning league titles were girls’ cross-country, girls’ indoor and outdoor track, boys’ basketball, wrestling, ice hockey, field hockey, boys’ swimming, girls’ outdoor track, baseball, and boys’ and girls’ lacrosse.
“I’m proud of the successes we had,’’ Angelo said. “And, I’m proud of the fine student-athletes who worked so hard and also the excellent coaches. Our coaching staff is a team of superstars. They help their players become role models, good citizens and outstanding students. They’re experienced and very willing to listen to feedback.’’
Angelo enjoyed seeing leadership and community service by athletes head in a positive direction. “We place an emphasis on giving back,’’ Angelo said. “All our teams have a community service project. Our players volunteered at youth clinics, youth events and practices, preparing and serving dinners, working on fund-raisers for cancer research and donating to the food pantry in town."
A student ambassador program was established and three student-athletes attended leadership conferences offered by the Mass. Interscholastic Athletic Association. The students were Josh Macchi, Miranda Smith and Nitin Chaudhury.
Angelo worked to make unified sports a reality, and it occurred in track and field during the spring. Twenty students took part and more will be involved in September when a unified basketball team starts play. Franklin hosted a South Sectional Unified track meet on May 23. “I’m glad we started it,’’ he said. “It’s great to see special needs kids team up with partners (school students) and compete.’’
Besides adding a unified program, Franklin started a girls’ gymnastics team, which competed in the Hockomock League. “They held their own by competing hard,’’ Angelo said. “A lot of credit goes to coach Paula Lupien, who did an incredible job.’’
Angelo hoped to keep user fees at their current level and that’s where they’ll be for 2017-18. Most sports fees are $200. The exceptions are boys and girls’ cross-country ($175); ice hockey ($450); gymnastics ($300) and the speed and strength program ($100).
Pleased that students participating in athletics increased by two percent, Angelo said he expects the number to be higher for the next school year, primarily because of the added programs. “Some people who deserve lots of credit for what’s been achieved this past year are the Department of Public Works for the great job they do with our fields; Recreation Director Ryan Jette for his department’s cooperation; and Sue Jacobson in the athletic office. She’s been so helpful in making my transition go smoothly.’’
One area where Angelo will focus much of his energy next year deals with chemical health. He’s intent on emphasizing that using drugs and alcohol does not enhance athletic performance.
“We’ve got to change the culture, not only in our towns, but all over the country,’’ he stressed. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting the point across. And, the point is that drugs and alcohol don’t help an athlete. The MIAA has rules and penalties for using drugs and alcohol. But, it’s not all about punishment. Kids have to understand that these things are harmful and bad. And, they’re also illegal.’’
Being an A.D. today is a multi-faceted job. Some days are routine and others present challenges. Angelo knows the ropes. He’s been a coach — first at the middle school level in Austin, Tex., (football, wrestling and track), and later at Tabor Academy in Marion (baseball and softball). During his 15-year tenure at Tabor, Angelo led the prep school to a state baseball championship in 2014.
Angelo also knows an A.D.’s job has many avenues. Trying to respond to 100 emails daily is a major challenge in itself. “Each day there are obstacles but by working as a team, problems get solved,’’ he said. “Working with student-athletes is rewarding, because you see them learn life lessons in sports, and you see them enjoy success and build relationships with others. Seeing kids compete hard to win is a plus and seeing them reach their potential and enjoy their athletic experiences is another reward.’’
As Tom Angelo says: “Being an A.D. involves juggling a lot of balls. My job is to not drop any.’’