Turning around the North Kingstown football program isn’t going to be
something that can be done overnight.
Joe Gilmartin has never said it was and never made a promise to anyone that this season, his first as head coach of the Skippers, will be easy.
But it is a chance to be a part of something he hopes will be great down the line.
“It takes a long time to develop a new culture,” Gilmartin says. “... There’s a lot of things going on and you have to be able to get people to buy into those things.”
Gilmartin, hired in the spring, is a familiar face to those who know North Kingstown football.
The NK High School history teacher was an assistant in 1983 and ’84 under Joe Mancini before serving under Keith Kenyon from 1985-1992. After a stint as head coach at Bishop Feehan in Attleboro, Mass., he returned to coach with Kenyon in 1995 and 1996.
Since then, he’s been “hanging out with the kids,” sons Joe, 13 and Ben, 10, and daughter Theresa, 11, but he’s always had the itch to get back into coaching.
When John Horsman was let go after three season where the Skippers lost all 24 Division I games they played, Gilmartin knew what he wanted.
“Those positions don’t come open often,” Gilmartin says, “so I thought I would apply.”
After being approved for the job, Gilmartin went to work, selling his ideas of the program to the seniors-to-be who have yet to win a division game.
“We talked about the fact that the window on their high school career was going to close pretty quick and they had one opportunity left to make a mark in high school football,” Gilmartin says. “We wanted to make sure they did things the right way.”
This means working hard in practice. Being responsible both for what you and the person next to you do. Just outside the locker room entrance are poster boards charting the day’s practice plan, Big Brother Partners – upperclassmen helping underclassmen – an attendance chart and a Player of the Day list for who had the best practice in the morning and afternoon sessions.
It’s early – the team started camp Aug. 13 – but Gilmartin has liked what he’s seen.
“They’ve been working hard and working together,” he says. “I’ve been really blessed with tremendous leadership in those kids. [The seniors]
bought into the fact that they’ve got a little time left and they want to be the group that turned the program around.”
It likely won’t happen this season, but Gilmartin has confidence it will happen.
“I don’t anticipate it’s going to be a quick fix,” Gilmartin says. “The Interscholastic League did move NK down from D-I to D-II and it will make fixing it faster, but there really is no quick fix.”