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NORTH KINGSTOWNâFor the first time in a long time the North Kingstown football teamâs season ended on a high note with a win over rival South Kingstown on Thanksgiving Day.
While it counted for just one win in the standings, the true value of that victory was apparent Monday when the Skippers held their first practice of the fall.
âItâs a huge confidence booster,â senior Nick Chevalier said of last yearâs win over SK. âItâs made everyone work that much harder to get to that level of play every game.â
âIt helped us for a period of time in the offseason,â NK coach Joe Gilmartin said Monday. âIt helped to get into the weight room and it helped build some interest in our program. Our numbers are really, really strong right now and believe it or not there are over 100 kids here.â
For a number of years interest in the football program at NK had dwindled, resulting in three straight winless seasons in Division I (0-24 in league play) from 2009 to 2011.
Last fall in Division II-B the Skippers went 1-6 in Division II-B under Gilmartin but the team won a handful of non-league games against D-II A opponents and of course, South Kingstown.
Now that some interest has returned to the program though, Gilmartin knows the hard part is just beginning.
âWe generated a lot of interest now itâs continuing to make it a program that kids want to be a part of,â he said. âWe canât lose kids tomorrow or the next day. When youâve got 100 kids itâs hard to make sure everyone gets quality reps.â
Throw in the new limitations on the amount of time a team can practice in a day and it makes Gilmartin and the rest of the coaching staffâs jobs doubly challenging.
âItâs just really difficult in an hour and a half, which is what weâre kind of limited to in terms of the interscholastic league,â Gilmartin says. âYou get three hours a day if youâre going to go into double sessions format, which is the format we really like, itâs an hour and a half practice.
ââŠWeâre on the field for an hour and a half in the morning, we have basically two 45-minutes blocks of classroom and film for each position group in the middle section of the day and then lunch and then an alternating schedule of lifting â so half the kids lifted today, half the kids will lift tomorrow.â
Even with the challenge of trying to get each player the coaching they need to improve, Gilmartin feels his team is ahead of last seasonâs pace.
âIn terms of the learning curve weâre probably ahead of where we were last year but we donât want to get ahead of ourselves,â he said. âWe still want to make sure weâre teaching everything well, doing the best that we can.â
Just how well the Skippers can do this season is a subject for another time though as for players like Chevalier, itâs just nice to be back on the field playing the sport they love.
âItâs great. I missed it,â he said. âIâm really excited and I canât wait for this season. Weâve got a good team, weâre working really hard so I just canât wait to see whatâs going to happen.â