|"Football is football. Kids are competitive. They want to win,'' said Tom Lamb, retired Natick High School coach, now an assistant coach for English High in Boston. (Boston Globe/File2005)|
Natick’s Tom Lamb lends his savvy to English High
It didn’t take Tom Lamb long to begin thinking about a return to coaching.
After retiring as varsity football coach and athletic director at Natick High School following the 2009 season, he kept busy working for College Planning Strategies. He traveled to high schools across the state, helping student-athletes and their parents choose the best college fit.
Recovered from back problems and pneumonia, Lamb felt better last year than he had in some time. A thought kept crossing his mind: Why not get back on the sidelines, in a low-key way? He worked at a few football clinics with youngsters in the inner city.
“When I was coaching at Northeastern,’’ as offensive coordinator under Barry Gallup, he said, “I got to know the city and high school coaches real well.’’
Brighton High coach Timo Philip asked Lamb to come to practice.
“He’d say, ‘What do you think of this?’ I was hanging around sticking my nose in somewhere,’’ said Lamb.
He began attending practices at Brighton, English High, and other schools in the city, asking the head coaches whether there was anything he could do to help. Carry water. Tape ankles. Paint the goal posts.
Lamb was a little uncomfortable at first. “I felt I was in the way more than I was helping,’’ he said.
And being an itinerant adviser frustrated him. He would be helping a player one day, then be at a different school the next. He thought it would be better to stay at one school and work with the same players consistently.
“After 40 years in coaching, I felt I could watch practice’’ and help a team, he said, “because it’s day in, day out.’’ A member of the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame, he compiled a 248-65-2 mark at Natick and Norwood, winning four Super Bowls.
He told Ken Still, the athletic director of Boston’s public high schools, “if anyone needs help, anywhere, let me know.’’
And that’s how Lamb became an assistant at English High in Jamaica Plain.
“I’ve known Tom since he was at Natick the first time,’’ said Still. “He just said, ‘I’m here to help any way I can.’ There’s a kindness about him.’’
Lamb also is acquainted with Chris Boswell, in his second year as English’s head football coach.
Fielding just 14 players, English was winless last season, and did not score an offensive touchdown.
“We’re in the twenties now,’’ said Lamb, who works mainly with the offense. Boswell sent out 300 postcards encouraging students to come out for the team.
Lamb pointed out that “the kids have a really big challenge’’ just structuring their day in order to play football.
“Some of them have to take two or three buses, and we’re not talking about school buses,’’ he said. “There are issues getting to practice and home from practice.”
Another problem is the lack of freshman teams in the Boston school system. “We have some really young kids that come to the varsity,’’ said Lamb. “It’s stressful for them.’’
At Lamb’s former school, Natick, the freshman team has 38 players, and the varsity, 84.
English won its season opener by forfeit when Jeremiah Burke High couldn’t field a team.
According to Still, most of the city schools can afford to pay just three coaches. Any additional coaches would have to be paid through fund-raising efforts, or serve as volunteers.
The Natick-to-English transition is a different world for Lamb, he said, but “football is football. Kids are competitive. They want to win.’’
Lamb doesn’t know how long he’ll be doing this. He’ll take it year by year. For now, “I think it’s working out,’’ he said.
English takes on Brighton tomorrow night at White Stadium.