Anzar High School was two to three days from having its football season cancelled due to not having a coach. Instead, the Hawks will be starting their seventh season of football on Sept. 2 at home against King’s Christian-Lemoore. The San Juan Bautista school didn’t have a coach until two weeks ago when it hired Kollin Kosmicki, the former Free Lance Editor in chief who recently left the company to pursue his own videography business and other endeavors.
Even though the 37-year-old Kosmicki didn’t think coaching 8-man football was going to be a part of the next chapter of his life, he’s absolutely ecstatic for the opportunity to be the new Hawks’ coach—as is Anzar High School Athletic Director Mike McKinney.
“I feel like we’ve hit a home run with this hire,” McKinney said. “He’s serious about it, and he felt he has the time to be dedicated about this and make it work.”
Said Kosmicki: “I wouldn’t have done this if I couldn’t fully commit myself to it. … It’s exciting to be able to take a young program and try to build something special.”
Before McKinney met with Kosmicki on July 14, McKinney knew he would have to blow the whistle—no pun intended—on the season the following Monday or Tuesday. In a sense, the football team’s 2017 livelihood was in its 11th hour. McKinney had to set a firm date to cancel the season because the team’s schedule had already been set—meaning all of Anzar’s opponents would’ve been left with a hole in their schedule with not much advance notice to reschedule a game against a new team.
Kosmicki always had it in the back of his mind to be a coach. Kosmicki played football at Brown Deer High School in Wisconsin under coach George Blanchard, who left a positive influence on hundreds of impressionable student-athletes like Kosmicki.
Blanchard helped Kosmicki develop into one of the team’s captains and leaders, and in his post playing days Kosmicki developed a passion to influence youth in an impactful way.
“I’ve always had an interest in mentoring and teaching kids, whether it’s in sports or in other areas,” said Kosmicki, who becomes the third coach in school history following Luis Espinoza and Frank Reyes. “This will be an opportunity for me to do that in a positive way.”
Kosmicki played fullback and defensive end, and just as important, he developed a passion and love for the sport that led him to become a student of the game. He studied an opponent’s tendencies and looked to exploit their deficiencies. Even though Kosmicki has no previous head coaching experience, McKinney feels the lack of time on the sideline will have little bearing on his new coach from doing an excellent job.
“He’s an intelligent guy and thinks his way through things,” McKinney said. “He has this mindset of, ‘Hey why did a team do this and why did they do that?’ Sure, there will be a learning curve involved, but you don’t need 100 plays out there for high school football. If you can do 5, 6 7 things really well, you can be successful.”
And that’s exactly what Kosmicki plans to do. In addition to hitting the books to increase his knowledge base on all things coaching, Kosmicki realizes preparation will carry the day.
“The main thing is I expect to come in from Day One and hammer home the fundamentals,” Kosmicki said. “I’ve always had a concern about the safety of the game, so for me it’s an opportunity to really focus on fundamentals and teaching them how to play the game in a safe but fun way.”
Kosmicki said he’s received tremendous support from the likes of McKinney, who has taken care of all the scheduling and logistical matters, along with Anzar High Principal Charlene McKowen and Matt Lindholm, who is the top assistant coach and has led the team’s conditioning drills during the summer.
“Matt is a real committed guy and great coach,” Kosmicki said. “He knows the game of football real well, and I couldn’t have stepped in and done this without him. He already has relationships with some of the players and has a system of conditioning. He also has knowledge about the school, the team and how 8-man football works. He knows how to deal with student-athletes, so he really deserves a lot of credit for what happens here.”
Timing-wise, the stars aligned for Kosmicki to pursue a job in coaching. Since he’s starting his own business, he’ll have the flexibility to work around his job to commit to coaching. Things have come full circle for Kosmicki, who recently moved to San Juan Bautista and lives just minutes away from the Anzar High campus.
With high school football being a year-round sport, Kosmicki knows he’s behind the proverbial 8-ball, as he will only have a month of practice before the season opener. However, Kosmicki expects to be successful in several areas, including having his players master the playbook, executing the fundamentals well, playing with tremendous passion, working hard in the classroom and displaying sportsmanship at all times.
“We’re going to want to win every game, and that will be a goal,” Kosmicki said. “But we have other goals as well. The most important thing is to come together and grow individually and collectively.”
Kosmicki said he expects 20 to 25 players—including in the neighborhood of 10 returning seniors—to try out for the team, though that number could fluctuate as the season gets closer. As is often the case with Anzar sports teams, players must be taught the basic fundamentals, as many of them have not come up through competitive youth organizations.
Kosmicki expressed an eagerness to teach the players the correct way to block, tackle and hold onto the football, the latter which has been a problem for the team in recent years. Just as important, Kosmicki will use the contacts he has in the community to help fundraise for the program, which is vital for every high school football team.