Granite State of Mind, #55: Seahawk Field, Cooperative Middle School, Stratham
In the fall of 2000 I joined the Exeter Seahawks youth football program as board president, twelve years after having played for the Seahawks as an eighth grader in 1988. Instead of coaching with the 8th grade varsity, I became an assistant on the fifth grade team as a way to get to know families when they started with the league. The following seven years were a lot of fun and fellowship mixed with a little heartache. The organization boasted some of the most dedicated parent volunteers I've ever been around, people who spent untold hours on the sidelines and practice fields, behind the counter selling snacks and shirts, and making the trains run on time for the best youth sports program in town. Each year we'd bring in 170 kids and play them all, upholding a philosophy of instruction and engagement that set the Seahawks apart from many of our competitors in the seacoast football world. I like to think that some small part of the success of the high school football program comes from the emphasis on learning the game instilled at the younger levels. Sportsmanship, effort, class - when those come first, the winning will follow.
There are a million stories I could tell about my time with the Seahawks. The six seasons on the sideline with Terry Warlick were a master class in youth coaching; I've never been around a wiser coach (Bobby Meyer comes close!). Other coaches, and board members like Marty Smith Wilcox and Faith Pendleton Walsh and Brenda Farrow Schrempf and parents like Nancy Lehman Monroe were part of a wide-ranging family that I still cherish years later. During those seven years we moved our operation from the lower practice field in Exeter (the fetid swamp where my own teams played years before) to the Cooperative Middle School in Stratham. That took some political wrangling (my highest and best use, right?), but in the summer of 2004 goalposts and a scoreboard arose at our new home, and through the efforts of many (most notably Terry and tireless dad Kevin Roy) our storage shed/snack shack was built. We entered a new Seahawk era. When it was time for me to move on, I was proud of all we had accomplished together. We made some tough decisions, laughed a lot, and saw some pretty good football (including a sixth-grade title from a group that went on to win the state championship with Coach Ball).
I can still remember a lot of those players (Andrew Monroe, Kevin Roche, Isaac Moore, Colin McQueen, all those Thom boys, and many others), all of whom are grown men now. But they'll always be Seahawks to me.