Former Souhegan coach headed to Memorial
Thursday, August 29, 2013
It’s official, Mike Beliveau will be back on the sidelines this fall. The radio booth just wasn’t close enough to the field for the former Souhegan High School head coach.
After 18 years running the Sabers’ football program Beliveau, who has been working with ESPN NH in a limited role over the summer, resigned after last season to watch his son play in college and to pursue other coaching opportunities. That next opportunity came as a member of Peter Colcord’s staff at Manchester Memorial.
“I’m really not surprised I couldn’t even wait one season,” said Beliveau, who began his time as an “offensive consultant” with Memorial last Thursday. “There was just something missing. The season hadn’t even started yet and there was an empty feeling inside.”
This isn’t the first time Memorial was in the 51-year-old coach’s plans. In January, he was penciled in as the Crusaders’ co-offensive coordinator to work alongside Colcord calling plays. Beliveau had second thoughts at the time and backed out, leaving Colcord to shift defensive coordinator Ray Connelly over to offense.
Circumstances have changed since January. Beliveau’s son, Tim, is no longer playing football at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. He has since transferred to the College of Charleston in Charleston, S.C., which has no football program, and frees up more time for Beliveau to work with a program in a larger role.
“It’s a combo of them reaching out to me, having been a part of coaching football for 24 or 25 years and having a supportive wife that wanted to see me continue doing what I love,” Beliveau said. “Obviously planning to take time to watch my son play was a big reason I left Souhegan, but it was also time to step back from all the extra garbage that as a head coach you have to deal with.”
After missing the playoffs in each of his first three seasons at the helm, Beliveau’s Sabers qualified for postseason play 14 times in the next 15 years. They reached the finals 10 times and won Division III championships in 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Last season’s Sabers reached the semifinals before falling to Goffstown.
It’s going to be hard for him not to be patrolling Souhegan’s sideline this season, but he has no regrets from the decision made last fall.
“There is sadness,” Beliveau said. “We built something great there. We had a great run. But I’m just not looking to be a head coach right now. I know when I go back to school, some of the kids are going to be asking, ‘Why aren’t you with us, coach?’ That hurts a little, but I want them all to realize I wish them so much success this season.
“It’s not like I was there two years and left. We struggled for a couple of seasons and I stuck around and together we built something other schools look at and want to emulate. I gave them 18 years of my life, and I’m not ashamed of not being there this year. It was a personal decision to step away and now being a head coach just isn’t what I want. After a year or two of being an assistant, if the right opportunity presents itself in college or high school then who knows. But that time, for me, is not right now.”
At Memorial, he returns to his roots – focusing on coaching the players and once again just enjoying his fellow coaches and friends.
Former Souhegan assistant and Merrimack High School head coach Joe Battista is also part of the revamped Memorial staff. He was also offered a position in January, and accepted it.
In five years at the helm in Merrimack, Battista’s Tomahawks had a 15-40 record, including an 0-11 2012 campaign. Battista, a 42-year-old Manchester resident, was an assistant to Beliveau at Souhegan for five years prior to taking over the Merrimack head coaching job, which he resigned from last fall.
“That’s something else I missed that made me say I have to get back out there,” Beliveau said. “I missed those daily calls with my coaches. They are more friends than coaches, and I missed that interaction. The whole crew at Memorial is great. What a great group of guys, and to be working with former assistants like Joe and J.T. (Anderson) again. I miss those friendships and all that we put into making the kids we work with the best they can be.”
Battista couldn’t be happier that Beliveau is back in the fold.
“It’s a thrill,” said Battista, who will be the Crusaders’ defensive coordinator. “I’m just as happy as he is. Coaching with him for five years was an honor. Even when I was coaching against him we still remained good friends. This program can only get better with Mike as part of the coaching staff.”
Beliveau has already shared a sensitive moment with one of his new players. During a practice this week, one of the Crusaders was having a rough day off the field, that impacted his performance in practice. Beliveau stepped in.
“It was a case where he was being over-coached a little,” Beliveau said. “It was hitting him hard and he was breaking down on the field. A couple players told me what happened and that he had a personal situation that was stressing him out and he couldn’t focus. I went up to him and we shared a moment. He got out what he needed to get out and after practice he came over and thanked me for helping him finish out the day. That’s why I’m doing this.
“I love those moments. I’m here for the kids and to see them succeed on and off the field. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as competitive as hell. I will squeeze all the water I can out of a stone to help get this team into the playoffs, but we are also here to help these kids feel good about themselves and feel confident in who they are.”
Confidence may be one of Memorial’s biggest challenges this year as the Crusaders must replace four of their five starting offensive linemen. Coming off a 4-6 season that doesn’t bode well for Memorial. Add to that the graduation of running back Jared Ombati, who gained 1,185 yards as a senior and Beliveau will have his hands full in Season 1 with the Crusaders.
“You know, we have eight to 10 injuries we are worried about too,” Beliveau said. “We’re hoping to get those guys back before the season opener. As for the overall make-up of the team, I am excited. We have a good number of skilled kids. Yeah, we only have one returning lineman, but the skilled position players look really good.”
For Beliveau, just being back on the sidelines is really good.
“This Memorial thing is just what I need at the moment,” he said. “It’s the perfect fit for me right now.”