Over his 29-year coaching career for Andover Football, Head Coach Leon Modeste has accrued an impressive total of four New England Championships.
Modeste’s coaching philosophy has changed over the course of his tenure at Andover. Originally, he led his team the way he thought was best. Since then, Modeste has transitioned to allow more suggestions from his players.
Modeste said, “I’ve learned to trust my players more and let the kids have more input into what the game plan is. I think I was much more controlling early on, but you start to learn that it is the kids game, the players versus the players. We try to give the kids enough information so that they can make good decisions during the game. I will never tell my quarterback that you have to run my play – it is his and his teammates, and I will respect my kid’s decisions regardless of the outcome of that play.”
Modeste’s coaching technique is a result of his extensive history with the sport. He grew up playing football and played at Springfield College. Prior to coming to Andover in 1986, Modeste coached football for a year at Columbia University and at Polytechnic Preparatory Country Day School in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
When Modeste first arrived at Andover, he served as the offensive coordinator for the football team in 1986. Then, Modeste served as Andover’s athletic director from 1990 to 2000, and in 2014 he returned to the position. Modeste was named the recipient of the Independence Teaching Foundation Award in 2014 for his work as a teacher and advocate for students and student-athletes.
Describing Modeste as a coach, Larson Tolo ’18 said, “Coach Mo’s coaching style is unique in the sense that I’ve never had a coach more dedicated to the team’s success in my career. His key to success is repetition. We follow the same schedule every week, focusing specific amounts of time on each aspect of the game. He designs very intricate plays that we practice every single day to ensure that we are prepared for the game each Saturday.”
Modeste especially enjoys coaching at Andover because of the athletes’ versatility.
Modeste said, “Andover kids are special kids because they just aren’t jug-head jocks, not just in football but across the board. I don’t want to coach the kid that is just here to play football. I want to coach the kid that wants to be involved in the community [and] who plays another sport.”
Describing his experience with Modeste, Co-Captain Keegan Cummings ’17 said, “The most important thing Coach Mo has done for me in my experience with him as a football player is teaching me how to carry myself as an athlete. He has instilled the workman attitude in me that it takes to be successful on and off the field. He has also taught me to give everything I have for the team and to lay it all on the line for them. This desire to leave it all on the line will suit me well not only at the next level but life after football as well.”
Tolo added, “My experience with him as a coach began last fall. I was an ambitious Lower with not a ton of football knowledge just trying to convince someone that I was worth a shot. [Coach Mo] believed in me when not many other people did and brought me onto the team. He taught me all about the game through repetition in practice and gave me chances to prove myself and make an impact on the team. This year, he has continued his belief in me, and I now find myself competing for starting positions on the defense and special teams.”
One of Modeste’s favorite coaching principles is stressing to his players that they are not just athletes; they are students and members of the Andover community.
Modeste said, “Everyone here at Andover has been very aware that being an athlete is only part of being a student here. That is why you call it a student-athlete, not an athletic-student. The student part comes first, and a student is a person who is involved with learning across the board. Athletics is just a venue for learning, and we learn a lot about ourselves through the trials and tribulations in any given season.”
Coming off its first win against Deerfield on Saturday, Andover, under Modeste’s leadership, hopes to build on its current momentum and secure more wins.
Editor´s Note: Larson Tolo is a Copy Editor for The Phillipian.