Hudson Valley Sports Report


HS Football Is Back In The Hudson Valley Again

By Scott Long
Special to HVSR

Franklin D. Roosevelt High School football has had its ups and downs throughout its history but recent years have not been kind to the program, which has seen its numbers dwindle to the point where the school had no JV team at one point.

Enter Ken Barger to try to correct all that and build a championship mentality to Hyde Park.

Barger has plenty of experience, as he’s built up a winning culture and turned around the Poughkeepsie High School program and spent the last five years as part of a championship culture at Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, where he contributed to two state championship-winning teams as an assistant coach.

In August, he was hired as FDR’s new head coach.

READ MORE: Barger’s Back!

Barger understands the difficulty of building up a new program, but he has welcomed the challenge and wants to get back to the basics, because “this generation’s students need to be reminded that being an FDR football player is special,” Barger said.

Despite not having a fall season and being tasked with coaching a team with very little practice out of season, Barger is optimistic about the team’s chances this year. FDR already has 30 students signed up and approved to play and were expecting another 15-18 to be approved by the start of the season. This is a good starting point for now But he hopes to reach 60-70 students in his program annually in the next few years, and to have an active JV team for underclassmen to refine their skills and get acclimated to the system before coming up and playing with the varsity.

It’s all about “selling your vision to the kids,” as well as letting them know “that all the work you put in has value,” Barger said. Barger believes his players are already buying into his process and is looking to translate that into success on the field. While success on the field is extremely important to him, he “expects to build champions in the classroom, in the community and in their chosen career paths,” and that is his main goal as a coach.

He said he learned a lot from his time at Archbishop Stepinac, working under legendary Coach Mike O’Donnell.

“You learn to use what the kids are doing to your advantage,” he said.

For instance, in today’s world kids are going to be on their phones. So he and the other coaches at Stepinac learned to use that to their advantage by “being as data-driven as possible,” and using the technology to maximize the students’ weightlifting using apps on their phones.

Furthermore, they may not have 6’5” offensive lineman across the board like he did at Stepinac, so he recognizes he will have to be more creative on both sides of the ball.

“We’re going to use our speed and a little bit of deception as our calling card because that’s how we maximize our strengths and minimize our weaknesses,” he said.

Barger believes in the talent on this team and plans to scheme toward the strengths of his players in order to get the best possible matchups he can.

However, this time there are additional obstacles with the COVID-19 pandemic changing much of the rules for practices and games. Barger refers to the obstacles surrounding the pandemic as a “spectrum of emotions,” yet he understands their importance, and states that the main thing as a coach during these times is to be “super flexible and super open to change.”

Some of these obstacles are things people don’t typically think of such as the players needing to bring their own water, needing twice as many buses to socially distance, and extra time needed to suit up for practice also due to social distancing protocols, along with so much more. It’s for these reasons that at certain times the games may need to be viewed as secondary, due to the need to understand that the health of the players and coaches are of the utmost importance, and when a game is canceled there is reason for it.

“But ultimately, extracurriculars are so important to kids,” Barger said, and that is why it’s so crucial that schools make an effort to get their seasons underway while maintaining safety precautions.

“Building a program in a pandemic is brand new,” he said.

Clearly, despite all the difficulties in recent years with FDR football, as well as the issues brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Barger is all in on this program. If the players buy into his process, the future could look very bright for the Presidents.

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